TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  History of photography

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CONTENTS
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History of photography
 
 
     
Abbe James
ABBOTT BERENICE
ADAMS ANSEL
Allen Albert
ARBUS DIANE
ATGET EUGENE
AVEDON RICHARD
Bailey David
BEATO FELICE

Beaton Cecil
BELLOCQ E. J.
BING ILSE  
BLOSSFELDT KARL
BLUMENFELD ERWIN
BOURKE-WHITE
BRADY MATHEW
BRANDT BILL
BRASSAI
BRAVO MANUEL
CALLAHAN HARRY
CAMERON JULIA
CLERGUE LUCIEN
Cunningham Imogen
Carroll Lewis
     
DOISNEAU ROBERT
Drtikol Frantisek
Duhrkoop Rudolf
DUNCAN DOUGLAS
Eisenstaedt Alfred
EVANS WALKER
Feininger  Andreas
FRISSELL TONI
GENTHE ARNOLD
     
Halsman Philippe
HAUSMANN RAOUL
Heartfield John
HINE LEWIS
Horst P. Horst
KARSH YOUSUF
Kasebier Gertrude
KERTESZ ANDRE
Kirkland Douglas
KLEIN WILLIAM
KOUDELKA JOSEF
Lartigue Jacques Henri
Laughlin Clarence John

 

     
Maar Dora
Man Ray
McBEAN ANGUS
MEYER ADOLF

Miller Lee
MODOTTI TINA
MOHOLY-NAGY LAZLO
Munkacsi Martin
MURAY NICKOLAS
MUYBRIDGE EADWEARD
NADAR
NEWMAN ARNOLD

 

Outerbridge Paul
     
PARKS GORDON

 

REJLANDER OSCAR
RIIS JACOB
ROBINSON HENRY
Rodchenko Alexander
SANDER AUGUST
SHERMAN CINDY
Skoglund Sandy
Smith William Eugene
Smith Rodney
STEICHEN EDWARD
STIEGLITZ ALFRED
     
Tabard Maurice
TEIGE KAREL
UELSMANN JERRY VALLOU DE VILLENEUVE JULIEN
     
  Watson Albert
WEEGEE (ARTHUR FELLIG)
WESTON EDWARD
 
     
 
 
The Photo-Secession

At the turn of the 20th century, one of the most influential Pictorialist groups was the Photo-Secession, founded in New York City in 1902 by photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The Secession’s name was taken from the avant-garde secessionist movements in Europe that sought to differentiate themselves from what they considered outmoded ways of working and thinking about the arts. With the help of Edward Steichen, Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession—popularly known as “291” after its address on Fifth Avenue—which exhibited the work of Modernist painters and sculptors as well as that of photographers who used a wide variety of printing processes, including gum-bichromate and bromoil printing. These procedures required considerable handwork and resulted in one-of-a-kind prints that in their softening effects resembled etchings or lithographs rather than photographs. Among the members of the Photo-Secession were Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Kasebier, and Clarence H. White. Between 1903 and 1917 Stieglitz published 50 issues of the beautifully printed journal Camera Work, which contained, among other works, fine gravure reproductions of American and European photographs and halftone reproductions of artwork by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Over the 15-year period of the Photo-Secession’s existence, the outlook of Stieglitz and individual members changed, reflecting the general move away from the more artificial aspects of Pictorialism as the 20th century began. Increasingly, photographers wanted their work to look like photographs, not paintings, and valued the qualities that were unique to photography. Over time, 291 began to show more painting than photography, and, as Stieglitz became even more convinced of the value of “straight,” rather than manipulated, photographic printing, several original adherents fell away, among them Käsebier and White. The final two issues of Camera Work were devoted to “straight” work by Paul Strand, who was the only photographer Stieglitz considered promising at the time. Strand’s images, consisting mainly of New York views and close-up portraits (made with a 45-degree prism lens so that the subject was unaware of being photographed), combined pure formal qualities, such as beautiful tone and sharp focus, with intense feeling.

 
 
Photo-Secession, the first influential group of American photographers that worked to have photography accepted as a fine art. Led by Alfred Stieglitz, the group also included Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Gertrude Käsebier, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. These photographers broke away from the Camera Club of New York in 1902 and pursued Pictorialism, or techniques of manipulating negatives and prints so as to approximate the effects of drawings, etchings, and oil paintings. The Photo-Secession was inspired by art movements in Europe, such as the Linked Ring, that had similar goals.

The Photo-Secession actively promoted its ideas. Stieglitz edited and published the important quarterly Camera Work and opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (also known as “291,” the gallery’s address on Fifth Avenue), providing a place for the members to exhibit their work. In 1910 the Photo-Secession sponsored an international show of more than 500 photographs by its members or by photographers whose aims were similar to its own. The show, occupying more than half of the exhibition space at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Gallery) in Buffalo, New York, was a sensation and significantly advanced the acceptance of photography as an art form.

By 1910, however, the members of the Photo-Secession had become divided. Some continued to manipulate their negatives and prints to achieve nonphotographic effects, while others came to feel that such manipulation destroyed tone and texture and was inappropriate to photography. Torn by this division, the group soon dissolved.

 
 
 
Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz, (born January 1, 1864, Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.—died July 13, 1946, New York, New York), art dealer, publisher, advocate for the Modernist movement in the arts, and, arguably, the most important photographer of his time.

Early life and work
Stieglitz was the son of Edward Stieglitz, a German Jew who moved to the United States in 1849 and went on to make a comfortable fortune in the clothing business. In 1871 the elder Stieglitz moved his family from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Ten years later he sold his business in order to devote himself to the appreciation of the arts and to European travel.

In 1882 Alfred Stieglitz enrolled in Berlin’s Technische Hochschule to study engineering, but the subject apparently did not strike his fancy. He did, however, spend an undetermined amount of time studying with the great photochemist Hermann Vogel, and, during this same period, he committed himself to photography. It would seem that this commitment did not seriously interfere with his role as student prince, as he spent much of his time at the racetrack and in cafés, seeing operas by Wagner, and being entertained by young women of the less affluent classes. Nevertheless, by 1887 he was skilled enough to win both first and second prizes in the “Holiday Work” competition of the leading English journal Amateur Photographer.

In 1890, after eight years of footloose freedom, mostly in Germany, Stieglitz returned to the United States. He was convinced that photography should be considered a fine art—at least potentially the equal of painting and the traditional graphic arts—and he was accustomed to getting his way. He quickly became a leader of photography’s fine-art movement in the United States (part of an international phenomenon). In 1892 he became editor of Camera Notes, the publication of the Camera Club of New York, a position that allowed him to advance the photographers and policies he favoured. By 1902, however, resentment in the club had reached a point where Stieglitz was forced to resign. He was ready to move on and already had plans for his own organization and journal.

The Photo-Secession
Early in 1902 Stieglitz announced the existence of a new organization called the Photo-Secession, a group dedicated to promoting photography as an art form. The name of the group suggested that it was designed to break away from stodgy and conventional ideas. In fact, all the Photo-Secessionist photographers were committed in greater or lesser degrees to what was called the Pictorialist style, meaning they favoured traditional genre subjects that had been sanctified by generations of conventional painters and techniques that tended to hide the intrinsic factuality of photography behind a softening mist. Members of the group were elected by Stieglitz, and eventually its roll included 17 fellows and almost twice as many associates. Founding members included Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, and Joseph Keiley.

It is difficult to describe the character of Stieglitz’s photography from this period without first identifying which selection of early work one is considering. As an active and talented publicist and publisher, Stieglitz was able regularly to revise his own early artistic achievement and to emphasize early work that in retrospect seemed more interesting than it had when new. For example, the negative for Paula was made in 1889, but the first confirmed exhibition of a print of it was in 1921, and the oldest extant print is dated 1916. If judged from the work that Stieglitz chose to reproduce while editor of Camera Notes, or from the 15 pictures selected by Stieglitz’s frequent collaborator Charles H. Caffin in his important 1901 book Photography as Fine Art, much of Stieglitz’s early work was sentimental, conventional, or both. Little of it compares in vitality—even within the narrow Pictorialist aesthetic—with the contemporary work of Käsebier, Steichen, or White. The exceptions in Stieglitz’s early work—those pictures that seem to respond to the photographer’s own life and place, such as Winter, Fifth Avenue or The Terminal (both 1892)—are almost always answers to difficult technical problems, which Stieglitz loved, and which often trumped his impulses to make photographs that were artistically correct.

To promote his goals (and, presumably, the goals of the Photo-Secession), Stieglitz introduced a quarterly publication called Camera Work; its first issue appeared in January 1903, and a total of 50 issues would be produced before it ceased publication in 1917. The magazine would largely define the artistic ambitions of amateur photographers in the first quarter of the 20th century. The quality of Camera Work’s production was extraordinary, and many of its gravure reproductions—often made directly from a photographer’s negative—are still valued by collectors. (When Stieglitz had returned to the United States in 1890, his father bought him an interest in the Heliochrome Company, a firm working in the then new technology of photoengraving. The business was a failure, perhaps because of Stieglitz’s antibusiness postures, but it is possible that he learned something about the craft of printing that served him well in his subsequent work as a publisher.)

Late in 1905, with the encouragement of his young protégé Steichen, Stieglitz opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, a name soon shortened to 291, the gallery’s address on lower Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the gallery’s first four years it most often functioned as an exhibition space for the Photo-Secession photographers. By the 1909 season, however, the gallery began to promote progressive art in a variety of media, and the work of painters, sculptors, and printmakers almost usurped the gallery space. These exhibitions (many of them arranged by Steichen) included the first shows in the United States of the work of Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso.

As a result of his varied activities, Stieglitz’s reputation in the art world grew quickly, and in 1910 the Albright Gallery of Buffalo, New York, a highly respected institution, offered him its entire gallery space to do an exhibition on the art of photography as he understood it. The exhibition contained about 600 photographs, including 27 by Frank Eugene and 16 by Anne Brigman, but not one by Carleton Watkins, William Henry Jackson, Edward Curtis, nor by Stieglitz’s fellow New Yorkers Jacob A. Riis and Lewis Wickes Hine—all of them alive, and none unknown. Stieglitz told friends that the Buffalo exhibition was the realization of his dream of a quarter century: “The full recognition of photography by an important art museum!” The exhibition was a political triumph, but not an artistic one, as it represented only a very limited conception— Stieglitz’s own—of what photography’s creative potential might be. In fact, the exhibit revealed that, while claiming to be progressive, the Photo-Secessionist ideals had in some ways become both authoritarian and deeply conservative, ignoring work that pursued anything other than an attenuated aestheticism.

After the Buffalo exhibition, Stieglitz made few photographs for five years. When he returned to creating his own photographs in 1915, his work seems to have become washed clean of the old artistic postures and darkroom manipulations and dedicated instead to the clear observation of fact. The change was perhaps due in part to his recognition that—for the most part—the work in the Buffalo exhibition represented a dead end and would lead only to progressively weaker repetition. In addition, it is impossible to believe that a person of Stieglitz’s artistic intelligence would not be changed by exposure to the work of Rodin, Matisse, Brancusi, Picasso, and Braque, which he had shown at 291 between 1908 and 1914. But perhaps the most direct cause of Stieglitz’s artistic renewal was seeing the first mature work of Paul Strand, which Stieglitz featured in 1917 in the final (double) issue of Camera Work. Stieglitz had always been quick to learn from his protégés, and he was unquestionably challenged by Strand’s work, which he characterized as “brutally direct, pure and devoid of trickery.”

Nevertheless, it must be said that part of what was new in Stieglitz’s work transcended Strand’s youthful bravura inventions and revealed (finally) the values of an adult artist. The first of the new pictures were portraits of the artists who were close to Stieglitz—Francis Picabia, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley—and they make his earlier portraits seem, in comparison, to be of characters out of fiction. In 1916 he created an astonishing series depicting Ellen Koeniger in her bathing suit—perhaps the most joyfully sexual pictures that photography has produced.

Stieglitz’s new views were incompatible with those of most amateur photographers, the core of Camera Work’s pool of subscribers, who tended to regard photography as a means not of exploring the world but of hiding from it. When Camera Work began it had about 650 paying subscribers; by the time it stopped being published in 1917 it had about 36. Many of its original subscribers were doubtless disaffected by the magazine’s apparent abandonment (parallel to Stieglitz’s own preferences) of Pictorialist photography in favour of avant-garde painting. With the outbreak of World War I, others were repelled by Stieglitz’s pro-German sentiments. In a larger sense, Camera Work may have died because Stieglitz had lost interest in the aims—promoting photography as a fine art along the lines of painting—that it was founded to advance. People closely associated with Stieglitz became alienated by his arrogance and manipulative strategies: one by one the most important of the Photo-Secession members—Käsebier, Steichen, White—all eventually broke with him, and by 1917 the 291 gallery closed.

Later career
Stieglitz, Alfred; O’Keeffe, Georgia [Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]Free at last of the duties of publisher, editor, and (for awhile) gallery proprietor, Stieglitz began, in his early 50s, the most original and productive period of his life as an artist. During the following 20 years, he produced the work that defines his stature as a modern artist. In 1917 he met the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who would quickly become his lover and finally (in 1924) his wife, after Stieglitz gained a divorce from his first wife, the former Emmeline Obermeyer. His serial portrait of O’Keeffe, made over a period of 20 years, contains more than 300 individual pictures and remains unique and compelling in its ability to capture many facets of a single subject. Until he stopped photographing in 1937, Stieglitz also created series depicting the changing skyline of New York, cloud formations (“equivalents”), and the surroundings of his summer home at Lake George, New York. These later works remain remarkably vital and continue to inspire and challenge photographers and artists in other fields.

Stieglitz also continued his efforts to support and exhibit Modernist art. After closing 291, he opened two additional galleries: the Intimate Gallery, from 1925 to 1929, and An American Place, from 1929 until his death in 1946. These small galleries were dedicated almost exclusively to the exhibition of the American Modernist artists in whom Stieglitz believed most deeply: Demuth, Arthur G. Dove, Hartley, John Marin, and O’Keeffe. (To a lesser extent, he also showed the work of American photographers. In 1936 he showed the work of Ansel Adams, the first new photographer whom he had shown since Strand 20 years earlier. Two years later he showed the work of Eliot Porter.) Through such efforts Stieglitz helped increase the public’s respect for American art.

Alfred Stieglitz’s contributions to the cultural life of his country were thus many and protean, but the judgment made by Steichen in 1963 seems just: “Stieglitz’s greatest legacy to the world is his photographs, and the greatest of these are the things he began doing toward the end of the 291 days.”

John Szarkowski
 


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. The Terminal, New York, 1892.
Gravure print. From Camera 1911, No. 36. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Georgia O'Keeffe.


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Georgia O'Keeffe, 1919

 
 
 
Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen, in full Eduard Jean Steichen (born March 27, 1879, Luxembourg—died March 25, 1973, West Redding, Connecticut, U.S.), American photographer who achieved distinction in a remarkably broad range of roles. In his youth he was perhaps the most talented and inventive photographer among those working to win public acceptance of photography as a fine art. He went on to gain fame as a commercial photographer in the 1920s and ’30s, when he created stylish and convincing portraits of artists and celebrities. He was also a prominent curator, organizing the hugely influential “Family of Man” exhibition in 1955.

Early life and work
Born in Luxembourg, Steichen and his parents immigrated to the United States when he was two years old. They settled in the small city of Hancock, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Steichen’s father worked in the copper mines. When his father was incapacitated by poor health the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the artist’s mother supported the family as a milliner. Beginning at age 15, Steichen served a four-year apprenticeship in a lithographic firm. During the 1890s he independently studied both painting and photography, applying himself equally, it would seem, to their commercial and fine-art possibilities, as he understood them.

The obvious way to persuade the public that photography was a fine art was to produce photographs that emulated the mood, manner, or attitude of the paintings and prints that the public confidently held to be works of art. Young Steichen pursued this strategy, known as Pictorialism, with abandon. Utilizing his training as a painter, in his early photographs he frequently used the gum-bichromate process in conjunction with platinum or iron-based emulsions, which allowed him a very high degree of control over the image and tended to produce pictures with a superficial resemblance to mezzotints, wash drawings, and other traditional media. Steichen’s photographs were first exhibited in the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon in 1899, and from that point he became a regular exhibitor, and soon a star, in the shows of photography’s fine-arts movement.

Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession
In 1900, before making the first of many extended trips to Europe, Steichen met Alfred Stieglitz, who bought three of the young man’s photographs at the not inconsiderable price of five dollars each. It was the beginning of a close and mutually rewarding relationship that would last until 1917. In 1902 Stieglitz invited Steichen to join him and other photographers, including Clarence H. White and Gertrude Käsebier, in founding the Photo-Secession, an organization dedicated to promoting photography as a fine art.

Steichen became closely involved with many of Stieglitz’s endeavours during the next 15 years. In 1905 Stieglitz opened his first gallery, originally called the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession but better known as 291, named after its address at 291 Fifth Avenue. Steichen served as the gallery’s French connection. Using the contacts he had made in Europe—many of whom he had memorably photographed—he became principally responsible for arranging the exhibitions of French Modernist art that were held at 291, including the work of Auguste Rodin (drawings) in 1908, Henri Matisse in 1908, and Paul Cézanne in 1910. Such shows were often the first presentations in America of the work of these artists. Concurrently, during the 14-year existence of Stieglitz’s Photo-Secessionist magazine, Camera Work, it reproduced more pictures by Steichen—68—than by any other photographer. (Stieglitz himself was second with 51.)

The break between Stieglitz and Steichen came on the verge of the United States’ entry into World War I, perhaps chiefly because Steichen was a dedicated Francophile and Stieglitz was openly sympathetic to Germany. Or perhaps it was because Steichen had come to believe that Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession and its instruments—291 and Camera Work—had become the vehicles for a personality cult. Toward the end of the gallery’s life, Stieglitz sent letters to those who had known the place well asking them to say what 291 had meant to them. The responses were properly and predictably flattering, except for Steichen’s. His was angry and shockingly frank. He wrote, in part, “I resent this inquiry into [the gallery’s] meaning as being impertinent, egoistic and previous. Previous in so far that it makes the inquiry resemble an obituary or an inquest, and because it further tends to establish a precedent in the form of a past.” It is difficult to believe that the friendship could have survived so direct a challenge.

Change of direction
When the United States entered the war in 1917, Steichen volunteered for service and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps; soon he was made head of aerial photography for the American Army in France. His experience with the rigorous technical demands of this work changed his view of the medium, and after the war he replaced the rather vaporous symbolism of his earlier Pictorialist style with optical clarity and greater objectivity of description. Steichen spent several years experimenting with realistic effects of light, tone, and shadow; during this period, he famously photographed a white cup and saucer against a black velvet background more than one thousand times, hoping to achieve a perfect rendering of subtle gradations of white, black, and gray.

In a further reaction to what now seemed to him pious Photo-Secessionist attitudes, Steichen threw himself wholeheartedly into commercial photography, establishing a successful commercial studio when he moved to New York City in 1923. He devoted the next 15 years of his life primarily to fashion photography and celebrity portraiture for Condé Nast publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair and to advertising photography for the J. Walter Thompson agency. Most notably, as part of his work for Condé Nast, Steichen created striking portraits of figures such as Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin that helped to define the era. He closed his very successful studio on January 1, 1938, and spent much of the next four years pursuing his long-time avocation of plant breeding at his home in Connecticut, concentrating on the delphinium in particular.

Curatorial work
One month after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. Navy made Steichen a lieutenant commander in charge of directing a photographic record of the naval war in the Pacific. In 1946 he compiled a selection of these pictures in the book U.S. Navy War Photographs; Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Harbor. During World War II, Steichen also began his association with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1942 he was guest director of “The Road to Victory,” an exhibition that showed photographs not as independent works of art but as the threads of a tapestry—the subservient parts of a larger whole. The coherence and emotional force of the exhibition was widely admired. Steichen followed this in 1945 with the exhibition “Power in the Pacific.”

In 1947 Steichen was named director of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, a position he would hold until his retirement 15 years later. “The Family of Man,” an exhibition he curated in 1955, was arguably the most important work of art in his long career. The exhibition was based on the concept of human solidarity, and Steichen selected 503 images from countless prints submitted from all over the world. It is said that the exhibition was seen by almost nine million people in 37 countries. Steichen went on to curate many smaller exhibitions at the museum, some of which were the first substantial shows of the work of important younger photographers, thus continuing his role as a tireless advocate of the medium throughout the remaining years of his career. His autobiography, A Life in Photography, was published in 1963.

John Szarkowski



 Steichen. The Flatiron Building in a photograph of 1904

 
 
 
Alvin Langdon Coburn
Alvin Langdon Coburn, (born June 11, 1882, Boston, Mass., U.S.—died Nov. 23, 1966, Rhos-on-Sea, Denbighshire, Wales), American-born British photographer and the maker of the first completely nonobjective photographs.

Coburn began taking photographs when he received a camera as a gift on his eighth birthday, but it was not until 1899, when he met the photographer Edward Steichen, that he became a serious photographer. In the same year Coburn contributed to two important exhibitions: the New School of American Pictorial Photography exhibition and the Salon of the Linked Ring, a group of English photographers who worked to establish photography as an art.

In 1902 Coburn opened a studio in New York City to exhibit his prints, and in that same year he was elected to the newly formed Photo-Secession, a group of American photographers whose aims were similar to those of the Linked Ring. The following year he was elected a member of the Linked Ring. After working for a year in the New York studio of Gertrude Käsebier, a leading Photo-Secessionist, Coburn returned to Boston, where his style was influenced by his discovery of the ink paintings of the Japanese master Sesshū.

In 1904 Coburn left for London with a commission to photograph celebrities. Among the memorable portraits he made there were those of the writers George Meredith (1904) and Henry James (1906) and the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1906). He even made a nude portrait of George Bernard Shaw (1906) posed as Rodin’s well-known sculpture The Thinker. Coburn’s portraits were collected and published in the books Men of Mark (1913) and More Men of Mark (1922).

In 1913 Coburn exhibited five photographs collectively titled New York from Its Pinnacles, showing street scenes viewed from above. These photographs, especially The Octopus, New York, display a novel use of perspective and an emphasis upon abstract pattern. In 1917 he began taking the first completely nonobjective photographs. He called them vortographs to associate them with the Vorticists, a group of English writers and painters who had been influenced by Cubism and Futurism, as Coburn himself had been. Vortographs were a deliberate attempt to prove that photographers could fracture space into abstract compositions as Cubist painters and sculptors had done.

During the 1920s Coburn, who had by this time moved to England, became increasingly interested in mysticism, and he abandoned the camera in favour of spiritual pursuits. In the 1950s, however, he resumed photography and produced a number of mysteriously ambiguous photographs, such as Tree Interior (1957) and Reflections (1962). His autobiography, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Photographer (1966), was edited by Helmut Gernsheim and Alison Gernsheim.



Alvin Langdon Coburn. Spider-webs
Photogravure published in Camera Work, No 21, 1908

 
 
Gertrude Kasebier
Gertrude Kasebier, original name Gertrude Stanton (born May 18, 1852, Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.—died October 13, 1934, New York, New York), American portrait photographer who was one of the founders of the influential Photo-Secession group and who is best known for her evocative images of women and domestic scenes.

In 1864 her family moved to Brooklyn, New York. Ten years later Gertrude Stanton married Eduard Käsebier, a German immigrant and businessman. After raising her family, from 1889 to 1896 she studied art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and quickly gravitated toward photography. Soon her work became recognized and was often exhibited. Her first solo exhibition was held in 1896 at the Boston Camera Club, and the following year Käsebier opened her own studio in New York City. Her photographs were included in the Philadelphia Photographic salons of 1898, 1899, and 1900. She exhibited her photograph titled The Manger at the salon of 1899, and it was purchased for $100, setting a new precedent in the photography art market. Her photographs also appeared in numerous magazines and were featured in the first issue of the influential Camera Work.

Like other photographers of the period working in the Pictorialist style, Käsebier was interested in promoting the medium as a fine art. As part of this effort, in 1902 she, Alfred Stieglitz, Clarence H. White, and Edward Steichen formed the Photo-Secession. She was also a member of the Professional Photographers of New York and of the Linked Ring in London and a cofounder of the Women’s Federation of the Photographers’ Association of America (1910). In 1916 she broke openly with Stieglitz and cofounded the Pictorial Photographers of America with White. About 1927 she closed her portrait studio. A retrospective exhibition of her photography was held at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1929.

Käsebier is best known for her sensitive depictions of motherhood and for her numerous portraits, often of famous artists and writers, including studies of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. In all her work she attempted to capture a symbolic, yet intimate view of her subjects. Käsebier worked primarily with platinum prints, although she began using a gum-bichromate process in 1901. Like many fellow Pictorialists, she often manipulated her photographs to fit her artistic intentions.

In the late 20th and the 21st century Kasebier was the subject of many exhibitions, including two major retrospectives, one at the Delaware Art Museum in 1979 and the other at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (which later traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art) in 1992. Her best-known photograph, Blessed Art Thou Among Women (1899), was featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 2002.



Gertrude Kasebier. Rose O'Neill, ca.1907

 
 
 
Clarence H. White
Clarence H. White, in full Clarence Hudson White (born April 8, 1871, West Carlisle, Ohio, U.S.—died July 8, 1925, Mexico City, Mex.), American photographer known for subtle portraits of women and children and also as an influential teacher of photography.

White had from his early years an appetite for artistic and intellectual pursuits. After finishing high school in Newark, Ohio, he took a job as an accountant in his father’s grocery business and married in 1893. He taught himself the art of photography and photographed constantly despite his limited free time and finances; he costumed and posed family members and friends in the early dawn or evening hours, in their homes and in the open and produced elegantly posed and subtly lit images. White’s work came to public attention in 1898 at the First Philadelphia Photographic Salon; asked to be a judge the following year, White met important figures in American art photography, among them F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz.

In 1902 White helped found Photo-Secession, a group of photographers that promoted Pictorialism, a fine-arts approach to photography. After a few years of making a living as a traveling portraitist, White moved with his family in 1906 to New York City. A year later he was hired to teach the first photography course to be given at Columbia University, a circumstance that enabled him to renounce commercial work. In 1910 he and several friends—including Day, Käsebier, and the painter Max Weber—began a summer school, held first on Seguin Island in Maine and later in East Canaan, Conn. Encouraged by his friends, White in 1914 opened the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York City. He also taught at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. His influence on the next generation of photographers was notable; many among his students—who included Laura Gilpin, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, and Doris Ulmann—went on to become successful photographers.

Although White had become a socialist early in his career, he did not consider the camera a tool for social change but regarded the medium as a means of expressing beauty. Until the end of his life, he continued to promote artistic photography through teaching, exhibitions, and associations with advertising art directors. The genteel subject matter and subtle lighting effects visible in his work came to epitomize the Pictorialist approach to photography at the turn of the century.



Clarence H. White. "The Watcher", 1906

 
 
Paul Strand
Paul Strand, (born October 16, 1890, New York, New York, U.S.—died March 31, 1976, Oregeval, France), photographer whose work influenced the emphasis on sharp-focused, objective images in 20th-century American photography.

When he was 17 years old, Strand began to study photography with Lewis W. Hine, who was later noted for his photographs of industrial workers and immigrants. At Hine’s urging, Strand began to frequent “291,” the gallery begun by Alfred Stieglitz, the leader of the Photo-Secession group. There, Strand met Stieglitz and was exposed to the avant-garde paintings of Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Georges Braque that were on display in the gallery. These works inspired him to emphasize abstract form and pattern in his photographs, such as Shadow Pattern, New York and Wall Street (both 1915). In one of the boldest photographs of the period, White Fence (1916), Strand deliberately destroyed perspective to build a powerful composition from tonal planes and rhythmic pattern.

Strand rejected the then-popular style of Pictorialism, which emulated the effects of painting in photographs by manipulating negatives and prints, in favour of achieving the minute detail and rich, subtle tonal range afforded by the use of large-format cameras. He relied on strictly photographic methods, realizing that the camera’s objectivity is at once its limitation and its chief asset. The purity and directness of Strand’s depictions of natural forms and architecture presaged the work of other American photographers who sought to express abstract formal values through the unadorned photographic image. Strand’s objective photographs of urban subjects were published by Stieglitz in the last two issues of his influential magazine Camera Work and were given a show at “291.” Much of the work in that show featured everyday objects, such as bowls and furniture, which were sharply lit and shot at such close range that they verge on seeming abstract.

After serving in World War I, Strand collaborated with the painter and photographer Charles Sheeler on the documentary film Mannahatta. While working as a freelance movie cameraman, he devoted his free time to still photography, capturing the beauty of natural forms through dramatic close-ups in Colorado (1926) and Maine (1927–28). In his photographs of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec (1929) and of New Mexico (1930), he achieved a new understanding of landscape, revealing a deep awareness of what he called “the spirit of place.”

In the 1930s, Strand became increasingly concerned with addressing social issues, and so he switched his focus from photography to motion pictures as a means to reach a greater audience and to tell a clearer story. Appointed chief photographer and cinematographer by the Mexican government in 1933, he made the motion picture Redes (“The Wave”) about Mexican fishermen. He returned to the United States and worked as a cameraman for the director Pare Lorentz on the government-sponsored documentary film The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936). In 1937 Strand formed Frontier Films to make documentaries with social and political content. Of the nonprofit company’s seven films, Strand photographed only Native Land (1942).

After World War II, unhappy with the political situation in the United States, Strand moved to France and worked throughout Europe. From then on, much of his work focused on issues of community life. In his later years he produced a number of photographic books in which he could mimic the effects of film by laying out a narrative sequence of images, often accompanied by text. His books from this period include Time in New England (1950), with Nancy Newhall; La France de profil (1952; “France in Profile”), with Claude Roy; Un Paese (1955; “A Country”), with Casare Zavattini; and Tir A’Mhurain, Outer Hebrides (1962).



Paul Strand. Portrait, Washington Square Park (1917)

 
 
 
 
 
The Photo-Secession

With adherents throughout the nation who embraced a varicty of approaches and a wide latitude of standards with regard to artistic photography, the Pictonalist movement was spread out and amorphous during the last years of the 19th century. Cohesiveness. direction, and exclusivity followed the formation in 1902 of the Photo-Secession. Organized by Stieglitz to compel "the serious recognition of photography as an additional medium of pictorial expression" and of himself as a prime figure, it grew- out of works selected and sent abroad in 1900 by Day and Stieglitz, both of whom were eager to demonstrate the high quality of aesthetic photography in the United States. Nevertheless, although Day's exhibition, "The New American School of Photography," had been exceptionally well-received in London and Paris, by 1902 he was forced to recognize that Stieglitz had emerged as leader of a vanguard movement that he baptized the Photo-Secession. Eventually numbering some 100 members, the founders included John G. Bullock, of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia, Eugene, Kasebier, Joseph Keilcy—an important critic and publicist for the movement—Edward Steichcn, and Clarence H. White. All were prominent in organizing and showing work in the national and international exhibitions of art photography held around 1900. While constituted as a national body, the Photo-Secession was most active in New York City, where Stieglitz served as editor of its publication.

The formidable role played by Stieglitz in the establishment of this elite wing of American Pictorialism has received ample attention, but the active participation of Steichen, who found and installed the exhibition space, designed the cover and publicity for Camera Work, and initiated contacts with the French graphic artists whose works eventually formed an important part of Secession exhibits and publicatons, is less well known. Steichen's own work in photography during this early period (before he gave up painting) displayed a mastery of manipulative techniques that enabled him to use gum and pigment processes as well as platinum to suggest subtle nuances with a distinctive flair. Because his later work in advertising photography had an even more signal effect on American photography, his contribution will be discussed more fully in Chapter 10.

Another of the founders, White was active in aesthetic photography first in the Midwest and after 1906 in New York, where he turned to teaching both as a way of making a living and of imparting to others his profound belief in the expressive potential of the medium. Involved primarily with light and its symbolism, he used it to invest ordinary domestic scenes with subtlety, tenderness, and a genteel quality similar to that found in the work of American painters William Merritt Chase. John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

In the main, Photo-Secession members produced landscapes, figure studies, and portraits—themes favored by Pictorialists everywhere—but a small group that included Coburn, Paul Haviland, Steichen, Stieglitz, and Karl Struss undertook to portray the city—heretofore an "untrodden field" in artistic photography." In common with their contemporaries, the painters of the New York Realist school (The Eight, later known popularly as the Ashcan painters), these photographers found their subjects in the bridges, skyscrapers, and construction sites they regarded as affirmations of the vitality of urban life during the opening years of the 20th century. The Flatiron building, a looming prow-shaped structure completed in 1902, was seen as a symbol of power and culture—"a new Parthenon"—in images by Coburn, Haviland, Steichen, and Stieglitz. The harbor, with traffic that brought new workers to the continent and day workers to the city, inspired Coburn, Haviland, and Stieglitz. Brooklyn Bridge and other East River crossings still under construction were photographed by Steichen, Struss, and Coburn, who actually considered these structures metaphors for the conquest of nature by human intelligence. Coburn in particular regarded the camera as the only instrument, and photography the only medium, capable of encapsulating the constantly changing grandeur of the modern city. As a younger Secessionist—-he was twenty-two when he joined in 1904—his willingness to experi¬ment with a variety of themes that included portraiture, urban views, and industrial scenes animated the Secession's activities during its early years despite his fairly regular travels between the United States and England. A consummate printer in platinum and gum. Coburn also worked in gravure, setting up his own press in London in 1909 and experimenting extensively with Autochrome. In spite of the brilliance of his early work and the avant-garde nature of the abstractions he made in 1917, after World War I he gave up serious involvement with the medium to pursue other interests. In terms of vitality and influence, the American Pictorialist movement expired during the second decade of the 20th century despite efforts by several Pictorialists, among them White and Coburn, to keep an organization and periodical afloat. The Photo-Secession had from the start planned to show other visual art along with photographs at its gallery, but, following their introduction in 1907, camera images began to play a less important role in both the exhibition schedule of 291 and in Camera Work, largely as a result of Sticglitz's conviction that little creative work was being produced in photography. This view was strengthened by criticism (by Hartmann and others) of the camera images shown at the Dresden Exposition of 1909 and in the Albright Gallery in Buffalo in 1910—the last large-scale exhibition of Pictorialist photography sponsored by the Secession. Between 1911 and 1916, only three photographic shows were held at 291: portraits and still lifes by Adolf de Meyer, a German-born photographer who was just beginning a fashionable career in London; Stieglitz's own work, timed to coincide with the Armory Show of modern art in 1913; and the last exhibition of photographs before the gallery closed—the work of Paul Strand in 1916, which included early soft-focus landscapes as well as cityscapes. The choice of these startling "candid" portraits of New York street people and of the virtually abstract studies by Strand for the final issue of Camera Work signaled the shift in sensibility that was taking place on an international scale at the time.

In Europe, most of the aesthetic movement, already by 1910 a victim of organizational dissension and prewar malaise, was abruptly terminated by the first World War, which put an end to the leisurely life that had provided much of its impetus and thematic material. After 1914, individual European photographers were scattered and isolated, with artistic interchange in virtually all media difficult. Even before the hostilities, however, the new aesthetic concepts that had become visible in the other visual arts began to influence photographers. In addition to the reaction against extensive hand-manipulation of the print, which had been in the air for a number of years, some photographers, among them Dubreuil and Kuehn, began to introduce greater definition and to deal with form in the more abstract fashion visible in Kuehn's Artist's Umbrella of 1910, a work in which the view from above converts the picture plane into a two-dimensional design. A new interest in realism also emerged to herald the concern with straight photography and modernist style that would engage the next generation of photographers.

Pictorialism was an instrument that enabled the aesthetic photograph to be regarded as a persuasive expression of personal temperament and choice. Despite misguided at-tempts to emulate traditional paintings and works of graphic art, despite disagreements about the qualities that give the photographic prints their unique character, and despite many images that now seem hackneyed and uninspired, a body of forceful work was created under the banner of aesthetic photography. Both the seriousness of purpose and the efforts by the movement to erase the division between the way critics and the public viewed images made entirely by hand and those produced by a machine have continued to be vital concepts that still engage photographers and graphic artists alike.
 


KARL STRUSS. LOW Tide, Arverne, New York, 1912.
Gelatin silver print. Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo.




ALVIN LANGDON COBURN. Brooklyn Bridge, 1910-12.
Gravure print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

ALVIN LANGDON COBURN

(b Boston, MA, 11 June 1882; d Colwyn Bay, 23 Oct 1966). American photographer, active also in Britain. He was greatly influenced by his mother, a keen amateur photographer, and began taking photographs at the age of eight. He travelled to England in 1899 with his mother and his cousin, F. Holland Day. Coburn developed substantial contacts in the photography world in New York and London, and in 1900 he took part in the New School of American Pictorial Photography exhibition (London, Royal Phot. Soc.), which Day organized. In 1902 he was elected a member of the Photo-Secession, founded by Alfred Stieglitz to raise the standards of pictorial photography. A year later he was elected a member of the Brotherhood of the LINKED RING in Britain.


ALVTN LANGDON COBURN. The Octopus, 1912.
Platinum print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.




ADOLF DE MEYER. Water Lilies, 1906.
Platinum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933.

ADOLF DE MEYER

Adolf de Meyer (1868-1949) was a Paris born photographer who became world famous for his elegant photographic portraits of famous people. Born to a German father and Scottish mother, he was educated in Dresden, and in 1893 joined the Royal Photographic Society. In 1899, he married Olga Caracciolo, whose godfather was Edward VII. It was a marriage of convenience more than love, as de Meyer was homosexual, and his wife Olga was bisexual. Olga was involved for some time, from 1901 to 1905, in a lesbian affair with wealthy Winnaretta Singer, heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune. Cecil Beaton once dubbed Adolf de Meyer "the Debussy of photography".

Edward VII's relation to Olga is disputed. There are some that have claimed he was, in truth, her father, having had an affair with her mother. However, there is little truth to that claim, and at most he laid claim to being her "godfather". At Edward VII's request, much due to his association with de Meyer's wife, Olga, Adolf was made baron by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. In 1914, on the verge of financial ruin due to World War I, he and Olga moved to New York City, where he became a photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair. In 1922, de Meyer accepted the offer to become the Harper's Bazaar chief photographer. He returned to Paris, and spent the next sixteen years there. On the eve of World War II, de Meyer returned to the United States, and found that he was a relic in the face of the rising modernism of his art. Today, few of his prints survive, most having been destroyed during World War II.



HEINRICH KUEHN. Artist's Umbrella, before 1910.
Gravure print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.

HEINRICH KUEHN

(1866 - 1944)

German photographer and scientist, doctor of medicine. Counted among the most important representatives of the international Pictorialist movement around 1900. Kühn was also an author of technical literature and temporary operator of a school for artistic photography. After relocating to Innsbruck from his hometown Dresden, Kühn devoted himself to photography completely around 1888. After 1895, close co-operation with Hans Watzek (1848 - 1903) and Hugo Henneberg (1863 - 1918) in the Austrian photographer's group "Trifolium" or "Kleeblatt". The combination gum bichromate printing, which Kühn developed around 1896, was considered an adequate process for the communication of the aesthetics of Pictorialism, which so closely followed a painterly style. As late as 1926, Kühn introduced the soft-focus lens "Imagon" to achieve an "artistic blurring" in the photographic image. After 1907, he also experimented with colour photography, particularly with the Autochrome process of the Lumière brothers.

Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz proclaimed his belief in the uniqueness of his native heritage in a credo written for an exhibition of his work in 1921: "I was bom in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for truth my obsession."'6 Nevertheless, as a body, his images suggest a complexity of influences and sources of which the American component was at first the least marked. The oldest of six children of a part-Jewish German family that had emigrated to the United States in 1849, Stieglitz spent his youth in a comfortable milieu that placed unusual emphasis on education, culture, and attainment. Taken to Germany in 1881 to complete his education, he enrolled in a course in photochemistry given by the eminent Dr. Hermann Wilhelm Vogel; from then on he was absorbed mainly by photography and by other visual art, although he continued an interest in science, music, and literature. Sun'sRays—Paula, Berlin, a study made in Berlin by Stieglitz in 1889, reveals a fascination with the role of light and with the replicative possibilities of photography, as well as an understanding of how to organize forms to express feeling.

After almost ten years abroad, during which his ability as a photographer had become recognized, Stieglitz returned to New York City in 1890 and became a partner in the Photochrome Engraving Company. He soon found himself more interested in campaigns to promote the recognition of photography as a means of artistic expression, working at first as editor of the journal American Amateur Photographer, then through the Camera Club of New York and its periodical Camera Notes, and finally through the Photo-Secession and Camera Work, which he published and edited from 1903 to 1917. Besides organizing and judging national exhibitions of Pictorialist photography, Stieglitz presided, until 1917, over 291, the Photo-Secession gallery, where, along with Stcichen and, later, with Paul Haviland and Marius de Zayas, he helped awaken the American public and critics to modern European movements in the visual arts. He was in contact for a brief period in 1915 with the New York Dada movement through the journal 291 and the Modern Gallery.

In his development as a photographer, Stieglitz began to draw upon the urban scene for his subjects shortly after his return to New York in 1890. At the time, his motifs were considered inappropriate for artistic treatment in photography even though Realist and Impressionist painters in Europe had been dealing with similar material for over 40 years. As his personal style evolved, the influence of German fin-de-siecle painting, of the Japanese woodblock, and of Symbolist and Cubist currents became visibly interwoven into coherently structured and moving images that seem to embody the reality of their time. Following the closing of the gallery and journal in 1917, Stieglitz turned full attention to his own work—a many-faceted portrait of his wife-to-be, the painter Georgia O'Keeffe. In the early 1920s, he undertook what he called Equivalents—images of clouds and sky made to demonstrate, he claimed, that in visual art, form, and not specific subject matter, conveys emotional and psychological meaning. Another series from later years consists of views of New York skyscrapers taken from the window of his room in the Shciton Hotel, which incorporate abstract patterns of light and shadow that express the fascination and the loathing that he had come to feel for the city.

Feeling incomplete without a gallery or publication, between 1917 and 1925 Stieglitz used rooms at the Anderson Galleries to promote the work of a circle of American modernists in painting and photography that comprised, besides himself, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, O'Keeffe, and Strand. The Intimate Gallery opened in 1925, lasted four years, and was followed by An American Place, which endured until his death in 19+6. Aside from exhibitions of his own work, only four of photography were held between 1925 and 1946, suggesting that his interest in the medium had become parochial.

Stieglitz's career spanned the transition from the Victorian to the modern world, and his sensibilities reflected this amplitude of experience. His creative contribution, summed up by Theodore Dreiser in 1899 as a "desire to do new things" in order to express "the sentiment and tender beauty in subjects previously thought devoid of charm," was conjoined to a great sense of mission. While not unique, his efforts to improve the way photographs were presented at exhibitions and reproduced in periodicals were notably effective in the campaign for the recognition of the photograph as an art object, while his openness to new sensibilities enabled him to introduce Americans to European modernism and to the avant-garde styles of native artists. In both roles—as expressive photographer and impresario—he probably has had a more profound influence on the course of aesthetic photography in America than any other single individual.




ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Sun's Rays—Paula, Berlin, 1889.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

 


ALFRED STIEGLITZ. The Steerage, 1907.
Gravure print. Private Collection.




ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Equivalent, 1929.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Alfred Stieglitz Collection.




ALFRED STIEGLITZ. From the Shelton Westward-New York, 1931-32.
Gelatin silver print. Philadelphia Museum at Art; lent by Dorothy Norman.

CLARENCE H. WHITE

Clarence H. White may be considered the archetypal Pictorialist photographer of the United States. Neither flamboyant in personality nor bohemian in taste, he emerged from a background of hardworking midwestern provincialism to create works of unusual artistic sensitivity and sweet compassion, with the people and places of his intimate surroundings as subjects. His best images, among them King Toss, reveal a perceptive appreciation of the special qualities of domesticity and feminine activities, themes that also attracted a number of the painters of the time, including William Merritt Chase and John Singer Sargent. Despite his preference for genre and allegorical subjects. White's camera images rarely are hackneyed or sentimental. His receptivity to a variety of aesthetic influences—the art of Japan, the Pre-Raphaclites, Whistler, and Art Nouveau—which had reached middle America in contemporary magazine illustration, may ac-count for the captivating freshness of his vision.

Working full-time as an accountant for a wholesale grocery firm, White still found opportunities for his own photography and time to promote Pictorialism in the Newark (Ohio) Camera Club. Shortly before 1900, he joined with Day, Kascbicr, and Stieglitz in organizing and jurying the major American exhibitions of Pictorialist photography. During his lifetime, he showed work in more than 40 national and international exhibitions, frequently garnering top honors and critical acclaim. In 1906, two years after leaving his job to devote himself entirely to his medium, he moved his family to New York City in the hope that it might be more possible to earn a living in photography. A year later, White began to teach, first at Columbia University, then at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and finally at his own Clarence White School of Photography, which he founded in 1914. Among his celebrated students were Margaret Bourke-White, Anton Bruehl, Laura Gilpin, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, and Doris Ulmann, attesting to the marked influence of this school on many photographers of the next generation.

During White's first years in New York, he and Stieglitz collaborated on a series of nude studies, exemplified by a sensuous image of Miss Thompson, but on the whole, White's creativity did not flourish in the city, because of the time and energy required to pursue a teaching career and manage a school. Although his contributions to Pictorialism were recognized by Stieglitz when the latter assigned him a special gallery in the 1910 "International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography" in Buffalo, the relationship between the two started to deteriorate as Stieglitz identified White with Pictorialist themes and styles he now considered repetitive and insipid. In 1916, White joined with other disaffected Secessionists to form The Pictorial Photographers of America, hoping thereby to support aesthetic photography while keeping alive the group idea, which to his mind had been one of the appealing aspects of the Photo-Secession.

Toward the 1920s, White's images began to reflect some of the changes in outlook occasioned by American awareness of modernist trends in art, but in 1925, before he could integrate the new vision into his own refined sensibility, he died while accompanying a student expedition to Mexico. With their concentration on light and atmosphere, their carefully realized tonal and spatial tensions, and an authentic sense of domestic grace, White's photographs embody the tonalist style in American Pictorialism.


CLARENCE H. WHITE. Ring Toss, 1899.
Platinum print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.



HEINRICH KUEHN

Both the career and imagery of Heinrich Kuehn may be said to personify the ideals of Pictorialism in central Europe. According to a modern critic, his "works represent a clear expression of the aspirations of ... [the] period," which were to "confirm the artistic quality of photography." Kuehn's sensitivity to the expressive aspects of composition, light, and form, as well as his deep involvement with a wide variety of photographic printing processes, may seem unusual in view of his background in medicine and microscopic photography, but the 1891 exhibition in Vienna of the work of The Linked Ring appears to have redirected his interest from science to aesthetics. On joining the Wiener Kamera Klub in 1894 after moving to Innsbruck, Austria, from his birthplace Dresden, Kuehn formed a friendship with Hugo Henneberg, a club member who introduced him and Hans Watzck to the gum printing methods used by Demachy in Paris. From about 1898 to 1903, these three photographers worked and exhibited together, signing their images with the clover leaf monogram that invited the name Trifolium Kleeblatt. After Watzek's death in 1902 and Henneberg's shift of interest to printmaking in 1905, Kuehn continued to organize photographic events, to work on his own experiments with gum, and to publish technical articles. His contacts with British and American Pictorialists, Stieglitz in particular, now provided the inspiration he formerly had de-rived from the Kleeblatt. A meeting in Bavaria in 1907 with Eugene, Stieglitz, and Steichen led to experiments by all four photographers with the new Autochrome color plates. Around 1906, Kuehn began also to associate with members of the Vienna Secession and the founders of Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop), easily integrating Viennese Art Nouveau into his personal approach Kuehn's themes and motifs reflect a tranquil middle-class domestic existence, not entirely dissimilar from the provincial small-town life that inspired White's most moving images. In portraits of family and friends, spacious interiors, and gracious still lifes, as well as in occasional genre scenes, he was profoundly concerned, as was White, with light and with decorative design. Besides the influences of Art Nouveau, one can also discern in Kuehn's photographs the impact of fin-de-siecle European painting, in particular that of the Germans Max Liebermann and Franz von Lenbach. A suggestion of the new concepts with which the visual arts would be concerned began to surface in Kuehn's crisper delineations of form around 1910, but on the whole his stylistic and thematic approach changed very little, and while aesthetic photography was supplanted in the 1920s and '30s by Die Neue Sacblicbkeit (The New Objectivity), Kuehn, unlike his friend and associate Stieglitz, seems to have been unwilling or unable to embrace these new perceptions even though he continued to photograph and write on into the 1930s.


FRANK EUGENE. Frank Eugene, Alfred Stieglitz, Heinrich Kuehn, and Edward Steichen.
Gum bichromate print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Linked Ring, in full Brotherhood of the Linked Ring, association of English photographers formed in 1892 that was one of the first groups to promote the notion of photography as fine art. Henry Peach Robinson was notable among the founding members.

The Linked Ring held annual exhibitions from 1893 to 1909 and called these gatherings “salons,” a name they borrowed from the world of painting in an attempt to demonstrate their artistic purpose. The aesthetic approaches of the members varied, but they were all united by the desire to reject the strictly technical approach of much contemporary photography. The members of the group refused to exhibit photographs that, in their judgment, failed to further “the development of the highest form of art of which photography is capable.” They also made innovations in the display of photographs: instead of crowding photographs onto a wall from ceiling to floor, as was usually done at the time, the Linked Ring photographers displayed their work at eye level.

In order to spread their views on photography, the Linked Ring admitted to their association respected international photographers such as Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Käsebier, and Clarence H. White. Many of these artists went on to form the Photo-Secession, which promulgated similar ideas in the United States.



The Selecting Committee of the Photographic Salon of the Linked Ring

 
 
 
 
 

THE SOCIAL SCENE

AS AN INEXPENSIVE AND REPLICATIBLE MEANS of presenting (supposedly) truthful verifications of visual fact, camera images were bound to become important adjuncts of the campaigns waged by reformers in industrialized nations during the 19th century to improve inequitable social conditions. Nevertheless, while photography's potential for this purpose was recognized soon after the medium's inception, a characteristic form for social documentation did not emerge until the end of the century. Then, shaped by both the emergence of organized social reform movements and the invention of an inexpensive means of mechanically reproducing the photograph's halftones, social photography began to flower in the aspect that we know today.

A tandem phrase, social documentary, is sometimes used to describe works in which social themes and social goals are paramount, because the word documentary could refer to any photograph whose primary purpose is the truthful depiction of reality. Indeed before 1880, nearly all un posed and unmanipulated images were considered documentation; since then, millions of such records of people, places, and events have been made. The word social also presents problems when used to describe the intent of a photograph because many camera images have as their subject some aspect of social behavior. For instance, commercial cartes, snapshots, postcards, artistic and photojournalistic images often depict social situations; that is. they deal with people, their relationships to one another and the way they live and work even though the motives of their makers have nothing to do with social commitment or programs. This said, however, it also must be emphasized that one cannot be too categorical about such distinctions, since all photographs defy attempts to define their essential nature too narrowly, and in the case of works that have social change as their prime goal the passage of time has been especially effectual in altering purpose, meaning, and resonance.

Documentary, as Evans observed, refers also to a particular style or approach. Although it began to emerge in the tate 19th century, the documentary mode was not clearly defined as such until the 1930s, when American photography historian Beaumont Newhall noted that while the social documentary photographer is neither a mere recorder nor an "artist for arts sake, his reports are often brilliant technically and highly artistic"—that is, documentary images involve imagination and art in that they imbue fact with feeling. With their focus mainly on people and social conditions, images in the documentary style combine lucid pictorial organization with an often passionate commitment to humanistic values—to ideals of dignity, the right to decent conditions of living and work, to truthfulness. Lewis Hine, one of the early partisans of social documentation, explained its goals when he declared that light was required to illuminate the dark areas of social existence, but where to shine the light and how to frame the subject in the camera are the creative decisions that have become the measure of the effective-ness of this style to both inform and move the viewer.

A crucial aspect of social documentation involves the context in which the work is seen. Almost from the start, photographs meant as part of campaigns to improve social conditions were presented as groups of images rather than individually. Although they were included at times in displays at international expositions held in Europe and the United States in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, such works were not ordinarily shown in the salons and exhibitions devoted either to artistic images or snapshots. They were not sold individually in the manner of genre, landscape, and architectural scenes. Instead, socially purposive images reached viewers as lantern slides or as illustrations in pamphlets and periodicals, usually accompanied by explanatory lectures and texts. Indeed, the development of social documentary photography is so closely tied to advances in printing technology and the growth of the popular press that the flowering of the movement would be unthinkable without the capability of the halftone process printing plate to transmute silver image into inked print. In this regard, social documentation has much in common with photo-reportage or photojournalism, but while this kind of camra documentation often involved social themes, the images usually were not aimed at social change.


CRUCES AND CO. Fruit Vendors, 1870s.
Albumen print. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Early Social Documentation

Few images of a socially provocative nature were made in the period directly following the 1839 announcements of the twin births of photography. The small size, reflective surfaces, and uniqueness of the daguerreotype did not suit it for this role despite attempts by some to document such events as the workers' rallies sponsored by the Chartist Movement in England in 1848. The slow exposure time and broad definition of the calotype also made it an inefficient tool for social documentation. Of greater importance, however, is the fact that the need for accurate visual documentation in support of programs for social change was a matter of ideology rather than just technology; it was not until reformers grasped the connections between poverty, living conditions, and the social behavior of the work force (and its economic consequences) that the photograph was called upon to act as a "witness" and sway public opinion.

Nevertheless, although social betterment was not initially involved, images of working people were made soon after portraiture became possible. Usually commissioned by the sitters themselves, some images straddle the line between individual portrait and genre scene, as in a daguerreotype by an unknown American depicting blacksmiths at work. Its particularity of detail—it includes surroundings, tools, work garments, and individual facial characteristics—coupled with the revelation of a sense of the upright dignity of the two men pictured, reflects attitudes toward rural and artisan labor similar to those embodied in the work of the American genre painters such as William Sidney Mount.

Calotypists who favored the picturesque genre tradition generally regarded working people as types rather than individuals, and portrayed them in tableauxlike scenes such as one of hunters by the French photographer Louis Adolphe Humbert de Molard. Others found more natural poses and more evocative lighting in order to place greater emphasis on individual expression and stance rather than on tools and emblems of a particular occupation or station in life. This approach, visible in images of farm laborers made by William Henry Fox Talbot on his estate at Lacock and of fisherfolk in Newhaven by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, may be seen as indications of the growing interest among artists and intellectuals not only in the theme of work but in working people as individuals.

A consciously conceived effort involving the depiction of working people was undertaken in 1845 by Hill and Adamson. Probably the first photographic project to embrace a socially beneficial purpose, it apparently was suggested that calotypes might serve as a means of raising funds to provide properly decked boats and better fishing tackle that would improve the safety of the fishermen of the village of Ncwhaven, Scotland. Intending to present their subject in as favorable light as possible for cosmopolitan viewers. Hill and Adamson made beautifully composed and lighted calotypcs of individuals and groups that may be seen as especially picturesque forerunners of the documentary style.

After the invention of the collodion negative, which made possible the inexpensive Ambrotype, and the still cheaper and easily replicated albumen print on paper, working people began to be photographed more frequently, appearing on cartes-de-visite and other formats. With the subjects posed in studios in front of plain backdrops, often with the tools of their trade, these works, meant either as mementos for the sitter or souvenir images for travelers, ordinarily pay little attention to actual conditions of work or to the expressive use of light and form to reveal character. The incongruity between studio decor and occupation, for example, is obvious in an 1867 English carte of a female mine worker who, appropriately clothed for work in clogs, trousers, and headscarf, stands squarely before a classy paneled wall with a studio prop of a shovel by her side. One exception to the generally undistinguished character of such cartes is the work of Danish photographer Heinrich Tonnies, who maintained a studio in the provincial town of Aalborg between 1856 and 1903. In common with many such portraitists, Tonnies photographed all classes of people—carpenters, housemaids, chimney sweeps, waiters—as well as the town's more pros-perous folk, but despite the anomaly of the decorated studio carpet and occasional painted backdrop, his images reveal a feeling for character that endows these working-class sitters with unusual individual presence.

Similar images of working people in cultures outside of western Europe and the United States served mainly as souvenirs. To cite but two examples, William Carrick, a Scottish photographer who opened a studio in St. Peters-burg, Russia, in 1859, and Eugenio Maunoury, a French national working in Peru at about the same time, each produced cartes of peddlers, street traders, and peasants. The distinctive quality of Carrick's Russian Types, a series of over 40 images made in Simbirsk that fall partway between portraiture and picturesque genre, probably is owed to the photographer's expressed sympathy for humble clients to whom he devoted special attention.6 Maunoury, said to have been associated with Nadar's studio in Paris before appearing in Lima in 1861, may have been the first to introduce the genre carte to this part of South America, but his static studio scenes depict working-class types as glum and inert.

Commercial photographers working in the Near and Far East in the latter part of the 19th century produced larger-format views in which working people, social life, native customs, and seemingly exotic dress were featured. Felix Bonfils, whose scenic views of the Near East were mentioned earlier, was a prolific producer of such socially informative views, many of which show the women of the Ottoman Empire in characteristic dress and activity but with uncharacteristic ease of pose and expression. This naturalness, and the fact that in a number of instances native women posed without veils, is attributable to the pictures being taken not by Bonfils himself but by his wife, Marie Lydie Cabannis Bonfils, who worked in the family studios in Beirut, Baalbeck, and Jerusalem between 1867 and 1916. In South America, a similar engagement with the life of the lower classes can be seen in the images of field peasants by Argentinian photographer Benito Panunzi.

Unquestionably, the most graceful studio portrayals of artisans, laborers, and geisha are the large-format albumen prints turned out in the Japanese commercial establish-ments of Felice Beato, Reteniz von Stillfried, and Kusakabe Kimbei. The subtle handling of light and the artful arrangements of props and figures create a rare tension between information—what work is done, what garments are worn—and idealization. Enhanced further at times by delicate hand-coloring or by vignetting, these highly decorative images may be seen as camera equiva-lents of the Ukivo-e woodblock prints that also often featured depictions of working people.


T. G. DUGDALE. Pit Brow Girl, Shevington, 1867.
Albumen carte-de-visite. A. J. Munby Collection, Trinity College Library, Cambridge, England.

 


WILLIAM CARRICK. Russian Types (Milkgirl), c. 1859.
Albumen carte-de-insite.



WILLIAM CARRICK. Russian Types (Balalaika Player), c. 1859.
Albumen carte-de-visite.
 


EUGENIO MAUNOURY. Three Portraits, c. 1863.
Albumen cartes-de-visite. Collection H. L. Hoffenberg, New York.

 


MARIE LYDIE CABANNIS BONFILS. Group of Syrian Bedouin Women, c. 1870.
Albumen print. Semitic Museum, Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.




BENITO PANUNZI. Settlers in the Countryside, c. 1905.
Albumen print. Collection H. L. Hoftenberg, New York.
 

Social life and ways of work engrossed amateur as well as commercial photographers working or traveling in these parts of the world. During 1857, compositions by British amateur William Johnson appeared each month in the periodical Indian Amateurs Photographic Album under the title "Costumes and Characters of Western India". Photographs of lower-caste Hindus taken by British Army Captain Willoughby Wallace Hooper arc further indications of the growing interest among Westerners in the social problems of the lower classes around the world. Perhaps the most completely realized result of a kind of curiosity about the way people live is a four-volume work entitled Illustrations of China and Its People, published by photographer John Thomson in England in 1873/74. With a lively text and 200 photographs taken during the photographer's four-year stay in China, the work attempted to make an arcane and exotic way of life understandable and acceptable to the British public by showing industrious and well-disposed natives interspersed with unusual architectural and natural monuments. In so doing, Thomson helped create a style and format for documentation that carried over to projects concerned with social inequities.

A somewhat different view of the non-Westerner emerged in the photographs of Native American tribesmen by cameramen attached to the geographical and geological surveys of the American West. Early images by the Canadian Humphrey Lloyd Hime, and later works by the Americans Jack Hiliers, William Henry Jackson, and Timothy O'Sullivan, for example, depict "native races" with a sober directness unleavened by the least sense of the picturesque. Hillers's views of the Southern Paiute and Ute tribes, made on the Powell Expedition of 1872, were especially influential in establishing a style of ethnic and social documentation that had as its goal the presentation of information in a clear fashion without either idealization or undue artistry. This approach was taken over by the Bureau of American Ethnology after 1879, and it became a cornerstone of the social documentary style that began to emerge in the late 19th century. This style also informed such sociologically oriented documents as Report on the Men of Marwar State. Although the works discussed so far were sometimes published in books and albums, or were sold commercially, their impact on Western viewers is difficult to gauge. On the other hand, there is no question about the impact of the hundreds of thousands of stereograph views of similar social material published by commercial stereograph firms. From 1860 on, as capitalist nations opened up large areas of Africa, Asia, and South America for trade, exploitation, and colonization, companies such as Negretti and Zambra, the London Stereoscopic Company, and Under-wood and Underwood sent photographers—some known. some still anonymous-—to record people at work and their housing, dress, and social customs. These three-dimensional views, accepted by the public as truth that "cannot deceive or extenuate," were in fact taken from the point of view of die industrialized Westerner; but while the scenes frequently were chosen to emphasize the cultural gap between the civilized European or American and the backward non-white, it is possible that glimpses of social life, such as two stereographic views of conditions in Cuba at the turn of the century, inadvertently awakened viewers to inequities in colonized areas. Toward the close of the 19th century, interest in social customs led some photographers to capture on glass plate and film indigenous peoples and folk customs that were in danger of extinction. In Europe, this role was assumed in the 1880s by Sir Benjamin Stone, a comfortably situated English manufacturer who hoped that a "record of ancient customs, which still linger in remote villages," would provide future generations with an understanding of British cultural and social history. Somewhat later, Jose Ortiz Echagiie, a well-to-do Spanish industrialist, and Charles L'Hermitte, the son of a renowned French Salon painter, undertook similar projects, seeking out customs, costumes, and folkways in provincial byways that they believed would soon vanish with the spread of urbanization. Exemplified by L'Hermitte's photograph of lace-makers in Brittany made in 1912, such images tend toward nostalgia in that they romanticize handwork and folk mannerisms while seldom suggesting the difficulties and boredom of provincial life.

Similar attempts to use the camera both to arrest time and to make a comparative statement about past and present can also be seen in the work of several photographers in the United States who turned their attention to native tribal life just before the turn of the century. In contrast to the earlier unnuanced records by Hillers and others of Indian dress and living arrangements, these projects— undertaken between 1895 and about 1910 by Edward S. Curtis, Karl E. Moon, Robert and Frances Flaherty, and Adam Clark Vroman—were designed to play up the pos-itive aspects of tribal life, in particular the sense of community and the oneness of the individual Native American with nature. This attitude is especially visible in the 20-volume survey published by Curtis, which owing to its strongly Pictorialist interpretation was discussed in Chapter 7. The handsome portraits and artfully arranged group scenes made by Moon in the Southwest, and the close-ups of cheerful and determined Inuit tribespeople of the far north photographed by Robert Flaherty, embody a similar desire to make their subjects palatable to white Americans with strong ethnocentric biases. As pioneers in documentary film in the United States in thee early 1920s, the Flahertys became known for their ability to give dramatic form to mundane events, and among the 1,500 or so still photographs that Robert made of the Inuit are works that seem arranged and posed to accord with a concept of these subjects as heroic and energetic.

A project of more limited proportions than the one envisioned by Curtis occupied Adam Clark Vroman, a successful California book merchant who also saw in photography a means to emphasize the virtues of American tribal life. His images, of which Hopi Maiden is an example, were carefully framed to suggest the grace, dignity, and industriousness of the natives of the American Southwest, but Vroman did not entirely romanticize his theme or obscure the hardships shaping Indian society in his time. In true documentary fashion, he used the photographs in slide lectures and publications in order to awaken white Americans to the plight of the Native American.

The interest in making images of a social nature relates to the collections of photographs of people at work, at home, and at play that were initiated toward the end of the century by individuals who believed such reservoirs of images would facilitate the study of history. Benjamin Stone, for example, not only photographed vanishdanger of extinction. In Europe, this role was assumed in the 1880s by Sir Benjamin Stone, a comfortably situated English manufacturer who hoped that a "record of ancient customs, which still linger in remote villages,'" would provide future generations with an understanding of British cultural and social history. Somewhat later, Jose Ortiz Echague, a well-to-do Spanish industrialist, and Charles L'Hermitte, the son of a renowned French Salon painter, undertook similar projects, seeking out customs, costumes, and folkways in provincial byways that they believed would soon vanish with the spread of urbanization. Exemplified by L'Hermitte's photograph of lace-makers in Brittany made in 1912, such images tend toward nostalgia in that they romanticize handwork and folk mannerisms while seldom suggesting the difficulties and boredom of provincial life.

Similar attempts to use the camera both to arrest time and to make a comparative statement about past and present can also be seen in the work of several photographers in the United States who turned their attention to native tribal life just before the turn of the century. In contrast to the earlier unnuanced records by Hillers and otuers of Indian dress and living arrangements, these projects— undertaken between 1895 and about 1910 by Edward S. Curtis, Karl E. Moon, Robert and Frances Flaherty, and Adam Clark Vroman—were designed to play up the positive aspects of tribal life, in particular the sense of community and the oneness of the individual Native American with nature. This attitude is especially visible in the 20-volume survey published by Curtis. The handsome portraits and artfully arranged group scenes made by Moon in the Southwest, and the close-ups of cheerful and determined Inuit tribespeople of the far north photographed by Robert Flaherty, embody a similar desire to make their subjects palatable to white Americans with strong ethnocentric biases. As pioneers in documentary film in die United States in the early 1920s, die Flahertys became known for their ability to give dramatic form to mundane events, and among the 1,500 or so still photographs that Robert made of the limit are works chat seem arranged and posed to accord with a concept of these subjects as heroic and energetic.

A project of more limited propordons than die one envisioned by Curtis occupied Adam Clark Vroman, a successful California book merchant who also saw in photography a means to emphasize the virtues of American tribal life. His images, of wluch Hopi Maiden is an example, were carefully framed to suggest the grace, dignity, and industriousness of the natives of the American Southwest, but Vroman did not entirely romanticize his theme or obscure the hardships shaping Indian society in his time. In true documentary fashion, he used the photographs in slide lectures and publications in order to awaken white Americans to the plight of the Native American.

The interest in making images of a social nature relates to the collections of photographs of people at work, at home, and at play that were initiated toward the end of the century by individuals who believed such reservoirs of images would facilitate the study of history. Benjamin Stone, for example, not only photographed vanishcustoms but, an inveterate traveler, he collected camera images of social experiences around the world, typified by a photograph of blind beggars in St. Petersburg by an unknown photographer. He advocated the establishment of photographic surveys to be housed in local museums and libraries throughout Britain, a concept that actually was realized around the turn of the century with the establishment by Francis Greenwood Peabody, professor of social ethics at Harvard University, of a "Social Museum" that eventually comprised over documents, including photographs, of social experience around the world.

It should be emphasized again that it is difficult to categorize many images that at first glance seem concerned with social themes such as work and living conditions, in that the goals of the makers were varied and complex. For example, should one regard views of workers on Talbot's estate at Lacock or of peasants in Portuguese vineyards owned by the family of photographer James Joseph Forrester as more than a new type of picturesque genre imagery because they show us tools, dress, and relationships? Children on a Fish Weir by the Venetian photographer-publisher Carlo Naya transforms the reality of working youngsters into an idyllic episode; should such commercial views be considered social documentation also? Can one really decide whether Curtis's views of tribal life in the United States are authentic documents or Pictorialist fictions?


WILLOUGHBY WALLACE HOOPER. The Last of the Herd, Madras Famine, 1876-78.
Albumen print. Royal Geographic Society, London.



UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. I of 1565 Aabirs;
He Sells Cow Dung (from Report on the Men of Marwar State, c. 1891.
Albumen print. American Institute of Indian Studies, Chicago.



UNDERWOOD and UNDERWOOD (Publishers). Wretched Poverty of a Cuban Peasant Home,
Province of Santiago, 1899.
One-half of an albumen stereograph. Keystone-Mast Collection,
California Museum of Photography, University of California. Riverside.

 


UNDERWOOD and UNDERWOOD (Publishers). The Courtyard of a Typical Cuban Home, Remedios, 1899.
One-half of an albumen stereograph. Keystone-Mast Collection,
California Museum of Photography, University of California. Riverside.
 


CHARLES L'HERMITTE. On the Coast of Plomarc'h, Douarnenez, 1912.
Gelatin silver print. Explorer, Paris.
 


UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Blind Russian Beggars, 1870.
Albumen print Stone Collection, Birmingham Central Library. Birmingham, England.
 


JAMES JOSEPH FORRESTER. Peasants of the Alto Doura, 1856.
From The Photographic Album, 1857. Albumen print.
Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.
 

Perhaps all of these images, no matter what their purpose, might be seen as aspects of the growing interest in problems of work and social existence on the part of Western artists and intellectuals. From the 1850s on, alongside the serious but idealized treatment of the European peasantry by Barbizon painters, realistic portrayals of less bucolic kinds of work associated with advancing industrialization had begun to appear in graphic art and literature. Exemplified by The Stonebveakers of 1851/52 by French realist Gustave Courbet and by Work, a grandiose composition begun in 1852 by the English Pre-Raphaelite Ford Maddox Brown, such themes signaled the mounting concern among elements of thie middle class for the social and ethical consequences of rampant industrialization—a concern that helped prepare for the role of the documentary photograph in campaigns for social change. Obviously, the complexity of ideas explored in the painting Work, which deals with the roles and kinds of labor necessary to the functioning of industrialized society, is difficult if not impossible to encompass in photography. Nevertheless, an effort was made by Oscar Gustav Rejlander. His composite picture Two Ways of Lifecan be seen as an attempt to deal with the moral and ethical implications of labor in a society in which the working class faces a choice between virtuous hard work or sinful ease. While Rejlander's image is derivative in style and moralistic in concept, other of his photographs embody less complex social themes and are more successful. For instance, the anxiety of unemployment is imaginatively handled in the composite image Hard Times while portraits of chimney sweeps reveal an individualized grace that docs not depend on social class.

The Social Uses of Photographic Documentation

The concept of using camera documentation to improve social conditions could not evolve so long as poverty was regarded as a punishment for sinful behavior. Nevertheless, even before such Calvinistic attitudes were replaced by an understanding that improved housing and working conditions might produce better behavior and a more efficient labor force, the photograph began to find a place in campaigns for social betterment. Carte portraits were turned into a quasi-sociological tool by Dr. Thomas John Barnardo, a self-appointed evangelical missionary who opened his first home for destitute boys in London in 1871 and went on to organize a network of so-called charitable institutions. To illustrate the effectiveness of his programs, Barnardo installed a photographic department to document the "before" and "after" transformations of street waifs into obedient slaveys; the prints were kept as records and sold to raise funds.

Such works have litde value as expression, but they raised issues that have continued to be perceived as significant problems in social documentation. Because the transformations seen in the photographs were at best little more than cosmetic, the result of a wash and a new ward-robe, and at worst entirely fictitious, Barnardo was accused of falsifying truth for the camera; he responded that he was seeking generic rather than individual truths about poverty. This attitude was considered flawed by subsequent social documentary photographers, who endeavored to make absolutely authentic records while also expressing what they saw as the larger truth of a situation. Nevertheless, the "before" and "after" image became a staple of social documentation, appearing in American tracts of the 1890s and on the other side of the world in the photographs made by the firm of Raja Lala Deen Dayal, for the nizam of Hyderabad to show the efficacy of relief programs for die starving.

As photographs came to be accepted as evidence in campaigns to improve social conditions, it became apparent that in themselves images could not necessarily be counted on to convey specific meanings—that how they were perceived often depended on the outlook and social bias of the viewer. The carte images of women mineworkers mentioned earlier are a case in point; introduced before a British industrial commission, as evidence that women were deprived of their feminine charms because mine work forced them to wear trousers, the same images suggested to others that hard work induced independence and good health in women. Naturally, not all photographic images can be as broadly construed as these bland cartes obviously were, but one of the basic tenets of the developing documentary style was that images should not only provide visual facts, they should be as unambiguous as possible in tone. For instance, in an interesting contrast to the cartes under discussion, an image of a young woman delivering coal, taken some 50 years later by Horace Nicholls as part of a project to investigate the role of women doing "men's work" during World War I, leaves little question as to the subject's feelings.

As a social theme, mining became a subject of special appeal to artists, writers, and photographers in the late-19th and early-20th centuries owing to its difficulties and dangers and to the perception of the mineworker as one who mixed individualism and fearlessness. One of the earliest American mine images, an 1850 daguerreotype of California goldminers, presents this occupation as an open-air enterprise that seems not to entail hours of back-breaking "panning." The first underground mining pictures were made in England in 1864; some three years later, while on the Clarence King expedition, Timothy O'Sullivan documented silver miners at work in images that suggest the constriction of space and the physical difficulty of the work. In the final several decades of the 19th century, mining companies themselves commissioned photographs of their operations and often displayed them at international expositions. Between 1884 and 1895, George Bretz, who pioneered subterranean photography with electric light in the United States, focused almost exclusively on mining in Pennsylvania hard-coal collieries. Breaker Boys, Eagle Hill Colliery  was one of a number of works acclaimed for unusual subject, technical expertise, and directness of treatment. Not long afterward, Gustav Marrissiaux, a Belgian photographer commissioned by mining interests in Liege, depicted (among other operations) young boys similarly occupied in separating coal from slag. Perhaps the most compelling images of this subject are those taken by Lewis Hine around 1910 as part of the campaign against the unconstrained use of children in heavy industry being waged by the National Child Labor Committee.

The directness of style associated with social documentation emerged around 1850, the consequence of expanded camera documentations on paper and glass of historic and modern structures—buildings, railroads, bridges, and, on occasion, social facilities. Commissioned mainly by government bodies, railroad lines, and publishers, the photographers involved with this work demonstrated an earnest respect for actuality and an attentive regard for the expressive properties of light. While they did not seek to obscure or mystify their subjects, they realized that the judicious management of light added an aesthetic dimension to the description of objects and events. One such documentation eloquently confirms that while actuality may be depicted without artifice, it can be made suggestive; The Linen Room (pi. no. 436) by Charles Negre avoids the picturcsqucness this photographer brought to his images of street types and draws one into the scene by an alternating cadence of dark and light notes that seem to imbue the scene with a mysterious silence. The series of which this is part was commissioned in 1859 by Napoleon III to demonstrate the government's benevolent concern for industrial workers injured on the job.


UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Before and After Photographs of a Young Boy, c. 1875.
Albumen prints. Barnardo Photographic Archive, Ilford, England.



RAJA LALA DEEN DAYAL. Before and After (from Types of Emaciation, Aurangabad), 1899-1900.
Gelatin silver prints. Private collection.



HORACE W. NICHOLLS. Delivering Coal, c. 1916.
Gelatin silver print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.



TIMOTHY O'SULLIVAN. Miner at Work, Comstock Lode, 1867.
Albumen print. National Archives, Washington, D.C.


UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Goldminers, California, 1850.
Daguerreotype. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.



GEORGE BRETZ. Breaker Bays, Eagle Hill Colliery, c. 1884.
Gelatin silver print. Edward L. Baftord Photography Collection, Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, University of Man-land, Baltimore.



GUSTAV MARRISSIAUX. Breaker Boys, 1904.
Gelatin silver print. Musee de la Vie Wallone, Liege, Belgium.

 


CHARLES NEGRE. Vincennes Imperial Asylum: The Linen Room, 1859.
Albumen print. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris; Courtesy National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.



Social Photography in Publication

Despite the realization that photographs might be useful in campaigns for social improvement, it took a while for the medium of photography and the message of social activism to be effectively harnessed together. One early sociological venture involving camera images was Henry Mayhew's pioneering work, London Labour and London Poor, which first appeared toward the end of 1850. Combining illustrations based on daguerreotypes taken under the supervision of Richard Beard with "unvarnished" language in the text portions, the author sought to enliven his account of lower-class urban life, but in the translation from camera image to wood engraving the London "poor" became little more than stiffly positioned genre types. Furthermore, with the backgrounds only sketchily indicated, the figures of street vendors and workers seem extracted from their environment, a visual anomaly in view of Mayhew's desire to bring the reality of working-class existence home to his readers. Curiously, the same lack of veracity characterizes his later work on English prison conditions even though by this time the engraver had access to albumen prints from collodion negatives supplied by the photographer Herbert Watkins. Even so, the format that was established—authentic language supposedly from firsthand interviews and accurate visual illustration from photographs—became the bedrock of sociological documentation—one that is still used today.

A later work, Street Life in London, a serial that began publication in 1877, repeated this scheme, but instead of line engravings it was illustrated with Woodburytypes made from photographs taken expressly for this project by Thomson, after his return from China. The 36 images that illustrate written vignettes supplied by author Adolphe Smith seemed to accord with the canons of the documentary style even though the text was a mixture of sensationalist reporting and moralistic opinions. The work was not a condemnation of the class system or of poverty' as such, but an attempt to make the middle class more sympathetic to the plight of the poor and thus more eager to ameliorate conditions. In keeping with the tone of the writing, Thomson photographed vendors and other working-class Londoners in an agreeable light, on the whole choosing pleasant-looking individuals and consciously arranging them in tableaux like genre scenes. Nevertheless, at least one image—The Crawlers —must have left readers with a disturbing feeling in that it depicts with considerable force and no self-consciousness an enfeebled woman seated in a scabrous doorway holding an infant. While Street Life may seem ambiguous in terms of purpose, one of its goals that met with eventual success was the building of an embankment to prevent the Thames River from periodically flooding the homes of the London poor. A project that originated in the desire to make a record of slum buildings slated for demolition in central Glasgow also helped establish the documentary style even though its purpose was nostalgic rather than reformist.



JOHN THOMSON. The Crawlers from Street Life in London (an album of 36 original photographs), 1877.
Woodburytype. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Edward Steichen.
 

In 1868 and again in 1877, during a period of unsettling urban growth, the Glasgow Improvement Trust commissioned Thomas Annan, a Scottish photographer of architecture, portraits, and works of art to "record many old and interesting landmarks." The results, originally printed in albumen in 1868, were reissued with later images added as carbon prints in 1878 and in two editions of gravure prints in 1900 with the title Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow. Because this project was not conceived in a reformist spirit, no statistical information about living conditions or comments by the inhabitants—who appear only incidentally in the images—were included. Nevertheless, Annan's images might be seen as the earliest visual record of what has come to be called the inner city slum—in this case one that excelled in "filth . . . drunkenness . . . evil smell and all that makes city poverty disgusting." The vantage points selected by the photographer and the use of light to reveal the slimy and fetid dampness of the place transform scenes that might have been merely picturesque into a document that suggests the reality of life in such an environment.



THOMAS ANNAN. Close No. 75 High Street from Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1868.
Albumen print. Edward L. Bafford Photography Collection, Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery,
University of Maryland, Baltimore.
 

Whatever the initial purpose of the commission and despite their equivocal status as social documentation, many of Annan's images are surprisingly close in viewpoint to those of Jacob Riis, one of the first in America conceive of camera images as an instrument for social change. Sensitivity to the manner in which light gives form and dimension to inert objects also links Annan's work with that of the French photographers Charles Marville and Eugene Atget and supplies further evidence that the documentary style in itself is not specific to images commissioned for activist programs. This becomes even more apparent in the work of the photographer Waldemar Franz Herman Titzenthaler, one of the first in his native Germany to understand that the dry plate gave the urban photographer unprecedented access to the social scene. Whether documenting urban slums, industrial enterprises, workers, army cadets, or street life, Titzenthaler's images all display the same careful attention to pictorial structure and the disposition of light. Indeed, the stylistic similarities between such images and those made to realize specific social goals suggests that in addition to a particular approach on the part of the photographer, social documentation requires text and context to make its message understood.


WALDEMAR FRANZ HERMAN TITZENTHALER. Boiler Maker (Types of German Workers), c. 1900.
Gold-toned printing-out paper. Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Social Documentation in the United States

Riis was the link in the United States between older Victorian concepts and emerging Reform attitudes toward social problems. His subject was the tenement world— where the poverty-stricken half of New York's population lived. In the late 1880s, on the eve of the Reform era, mil-lions of immigrants from Europe, largely from the eastern and southern sections, were induced by the promise of jobs to come to the United States. Needed as cheap labor for seemingly insatiable industrial appetites, those uprooted workers became the first victims of the economic collapse that lasted from 1882 until 1887 (one of the many in the post-Civil War era). Disgracefully ill-housed in tenements or actually living in the streets of major American cities, with New York by far the most overcrowded and disease-ridden, impoverished immigrants were thought by most middle-class people to be responsible for their own poverty. Before 1890, the problems of the urban poor were completely ignored by public officials, while private charitable organizations contented themselves with pro-viding soup kitchens and moral uplift.

As a police reporter for the New York Herald, Riis, who was thrust squarely into a densely populated and malignant slum called Mulberry Bend, started to use camera images, taken by himself or under his supervision, to prove the truth of his words and to make the relationship between poverty and social behavior clear to influential people. The photographs were seen as a way to produce incontrovertible evidence of the existence of vagrant children, squalid housing, and the disgraceful lodgings provided by the police for the homeless. As lantern slides for Riis's popular lectures and as illustrations for articles and books, diese pictures were significant elements of the successful campaigns to eliminate the most pestilential shanties in Mulberry Bend and to close down the police lodging houses. The first and most influential publication by Riis, How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, which appeared in book form in 1890, consisted of reportage based on his personal investigation and was illustrated by 40 plates, 17 of which were direct halftone reproductions of photographs. Despite the poor quality of these early halftones, images such as Five Carts Lodging, Bayard Street (pi. no. 439) clearly are more persuasive as photographs than as line drawings.
 


JACOB A. Riis. Five Cents Lodging, Bayard Street, c. 1889.
Gelatin silver print. Jacob A. Riis Collection,
Museum of the City of New York.

KENYON COX.
Lodgers in a Crowded Bayard Street Tenement, 1890.
Wood engraving from How the Other Half Lives.

Neither their social intent nor the fact that Riis thought himself an inept photographer, uninterested in the techniques or aesthetics of printing, should blind one to the discernment with which these images were made. Fully aware of the purpose to be served, the photographer selected appropriate vantage points and ways to frame the subject, at times transcending the limitation implied in the title—that of an outsider looking at slum life from across the deep chasm separating middle- from lower-class life. While he may not have entered very deeply into the space occupied by the "other, his was not a casual view. Com-pare for example, the Jersey Street sheds  in which the figures are placed in a rigidly circumscribed patch of sunlight, hemmed in by areas of brick and shadow and so disposed that the eye must focus on them while also taking in the surrounding details, with a contemporaneous image by an unknown photographer of a London slum courtyard. This scene, with its random arrangement of figures, may actually seem more authentically real to modem viewers than Riis's image, but the slice-of-life naturalism it represents did not interest social documentarians. Because social images were meant to persuade, photographers felt it necessary to communicate a belief that slum dwellers were capable of human emotions and that they were being kept from fully realizing their human qualities by their surroundings. As a result, photographs used in campaigns for social reform not only provided truthful evidence but embodied a commitment to humanistic ideals. By selecting sympathetic types and contrasting the individual's expression and gesture with the shabbiness of the physical surroundings, the photographer frequently was able to transform a mundane record of what exists into a fervent plea for what might be. This idealism became a basic tenet of the social documentary concept.

Before 1890, tracts on social problems in the United States had been largely religious in nature, stressing "redemption of the erring and sinful." Such works usually were illustrated with engravings that at times acknowledged a photographic source and at others gave the artistic imagination free reign. After the appearance of How The Other Half Lives, however, photographic "evidence" be-came the rule for publications dealing with social problems even though the texts might still consider poverty to be the result of moral inadequacy rather than economic laws. In one example, Darkness and Daylight, an 1897 compendium of interviews, sensationalist reporting, and sermonizing, readers were assured that all the illustrations were "scenes presented to the camera's merciless and unfailing eye," notwithstanding the fact that they actually were engraved by artists using photographs.

As halftone printing techniques advanced and reformist ideas took the place of religiously motivated charity, social photography became the "embodiment of progressive values," largely through the work of Hine. His career spanned 40 years, during which he enlarged on Riis's objectives and formulated new concepts and techniques. Involvement in The Pittsburgh Survey, a pioneering study of working and living conditions in the nation's foremost industrial city, aided Hine in developing a forceful and distinctive personal style, exemplified by the previously mentioned Breaker Boys (pi. no. 474). This complex organization of informative detail and affecting expression bathed in somber light creates a miniature netherworld of intersecting triangles, a visual counterpart to Hine's characterization of child labor as "deadening in its monotony, exhausting physically, irregular," and of child workers as "condemned."

The confident atmosphere engendered by the Progressive Era sustained other projects in which camera images were used to document social conditions, but few photographers were as committed to lobbying for social change as Riis and Hine. Many worked for the expanding periodical press that by 1886 had increased its use of photographs to the point where Frances Benjamin Johnston could describe herself as "making a business of photographic illustration and the writing of descriptive articles for magazines, illustrated weeklies and newspapers" (at the time an unusual career for women). Her early assignments are indicative of the growing popular interest in work and workers; they include a story on coal mines, a spread on the employees in the United States Mint, one on iron workers on the Mesabi Range and on women in the mills of New England, besides news stories on the illustrious doings of celebrities. Her most fully realized commissioned documentation (as contrasted with her magazine stories) was undertaken in 1899 to publicize the educational program offered by the Hampton Institute—a school in Virginia that incorporated the Reform ideal of industrial training in a program designed to eliminate poverty among rural blacks and Indians. Johnston's highly styled arrangements, classical poses, and overall clarity of illumination—seen in Students at Work on the Stairway (pi. no. 443) and now so unexpected in documentary images-—seem designed to suggest the temperate and disciplined approach that the school emphasized. Others who supplied imagery on social themes to the press were Arthur Hewitt, a member of the Camera Club of New York whose Pictorialist style colored his photographs of bridge-builders and longshoremen for Everybody's Magazine, and Jesse Tarbox Beals, whose prosaic record shots of tenement life were commissioned by the charity organizations that eventually merged into the Community Services Society.

After 1915, Reformist ideals and programs withered as American energies were redirected to the crisis occasioned by the first World War. With social issues receding in importance, there was less demand for photographs that give dimension to these concerns, and at the same time fresh aesthetic winds, generated by the Armory Show of 1913, quickened interest in the European avant-garde movements in the arts. Abstraction, Expressionism, and Dadaism were some of the new styles and concepts that made Realism and the expression of human emotion and sentiment in visual art seem old-fashioned and contributed to a brief eclipse of the social documentary sensibility during the 1920s.

Jacob Riis

(b Ribe, Denmark, 3 May 1849; d Barre, MA, 26 May 1914).

American photographer of Danish birth. The son of a school-teacher and editor, he was well-educated when he came to the USA in 1870. He was a self-taught photographer and worked at a variety of jobs before becoming a journalist, and he understood the power of the written and illustrated word. Riis’s work in journalism began in 1873 when he was employed by the New York News Association. By 1874 he was editor and then owner of the South Brooklyn News. In 1878 he won a coveted job as a police-reporter at the Tribune and found the basis of his life’s work in his assigned territory, Mulberry Bend, where the worst slums and tenements were (e.g. Mulberry Bend as It Was).


JACOB RIIS. Yard, Jersey Street Tenement, c. 1888.
Gelatin silver print. Jacob A. Riis Collection, Museum of the City of New York.



UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. London Slum, c. 1889.
Gelatin silver print. BBC HuJton Picture Library/Bettman Archive.



FRANCES BENJAMIN JOHNSTON. Hampton Institute: Students at Work on the Stairway, 1899-1900.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

The Portrait as Social Document

In the United States, these changes were reflected not only in the direction taken by aesthetic photographers but in the images appearing in the periodical press, which joined with the new institution of advertising to project an image of the nation as an energetic titan ruled by rational industrial forces. Few photographers other than Hine regarded working people as the source of industrial wealth, and even his emphasis shifted from documenting "negative" factors such as exploitation and boredom to portraying the "positive" contributions made by individual men and women in industry. In his "Work Portraits," which appeared sporadically in industrial trade journals during the 1920s, he attempted to bring out the human component in industry through facial close-ups and by relating the forms of worker and machine, an endeavor that culminated in the documentation of the construction of the Empire State Building in 1930 and 1931.

Owing to the emphasis in Europe on political action rather than social reform, European photographers during the first decades of the 20th century were not given the opportunity to produce social documentation in the manner of Riis or Hine. Nevertheless, as individuals, Emil O. Hoppe, Helmar Lerski, and August Sander (see Profile) sought to create, in Sander's word, an "honest'" document of an age through portraits that presumably would awaken the viewer to the character of different classes and occupations in society. Of the three, Hoppe, who opened a studio in London in 1907 after leaving Germany, actually was a commercial photographer of taste and discernment who undertook to photograph women workers and became adept at reusing these images in a variety of contexts in publication and advertising work. Lerski, born in Strasbourg and trained as an actor, spent many years in the United States, where he became interested in photography about 1911. Theatrical lighting effects and large-scale facial close-ups that entirely fill the picture space characterize his attempt to create a sociopsychological portrait of people in a variety of occupations, which he published in Germany in 1931 as Kopfe des Alltags (Ordinary Faces).


EMIL O. HOPPE. Flower Seller, 1921.
Gelatin silver print. The E. O. Hoppe Curatorial Assistance Trust, Los Angeles.



HELMAR LERSKI. German Metal Worker, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.



LEWIS W. HINE. Powerhouse Mechanic, 1925.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

The towering figure in this kind of documentation through portraiture is Sander. From 1910 until he was censured by the Nazi regime in 1934, he made beautifully lighted and composed images of individuals and groups from all professions and classes in Germany. The clarity and directness with which he approached social portraiture connect his work with both 19th-century Realist painting and the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) style that emerged in German visual art in the 1920s. Individually and as an aggregate his images are infused with an ironic dimension that suggests the entrenched role of stratified social hierarchies in the Germany of his time. Sander's project culminated in 1929 in the publication of Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), in which only a small number of the more than 500 images initially envisioned for this work were reproduced. The book was later banned in part because the images showed Germans to be gready more varied in facial characteristics and temperament than the official mythology decreed.

No American photographer of the time attempted such a vast project dealing with portraiture of all sectors of society. Of the few who were attracted to "everyday" faces, Hine limited himself to portraits of skilled industrial workers, while Doris Ulmann, a sophisticated New York portraitist trained at the Clarence White School, sought to document the rural population of the Southern highlands and plains in a style that invokes Pictorialist ideas as much as social documentation. Inspired by the revived interest in rural customs and handicraft as a way of preserving America's pre-industrial heritage, her portraits, made in natural light with a large-format view camera and soft-focus lens, embody the photographer's conviction that simplicity and closeness to the soil were of greater moment than progress.

A similar idea about the independent character of rural folk can be seen in The Boss, an image by Prentice Hall Polk, photographer for Tuskeegee Institute, that verges on being an idealized genre type rather than a document of social reality. Indeed, even commercial portrait photographers in the 20th century were sometimes in a position to provide a sociological document of the people among whom they lived. One thinks of James Van Der Zee, whose images of Harlem's middle- and upper-class citizens are poignant testimony to their aspirations. A similar view into the social structure of a provincial society can be seen in the work of the Peruvian portraitist Martin Chambi, a pioneer of the photo postcard in his own country. In the careful attention to details of dress and ambience, his individual and group portraits made in a studio in Cuzco or in remote highlands during the 1930s not only reveal the sitters' physical features but also suggest social hierarchies.


AUGUST SANDER. Pastry Cook Cologne, 1928.
Gelatin silver print. Sander Gallery, New York

AUGUST SANDER

August Sander (17 November 1876 in Herdorf, Germany; † 20 April 1964 in Cologne) was a German portrait and documentary photographer.
Sander was the son of a carpenter working in the mining industry. While working at a local mine, Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought photographic equipment and set up his own darkroom.
He spent his military service (1897 – 1899) as a photographer's assistant, and the next years wandering across Germany. In 1901, he started working for a photo studio in Linz, eventually becoming a partner (1902), and then its sole proprietor (1904). He left Linz at the end of 1909 and set up a new studio in Cologne.
In the early 1920s, Sander joined the "Group of Progressive Artists" in Cologne and began plans to document contemporary society in a portrait series. In 1927, Sander and writer Ludwig Mathar traveled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs. However, a planned book detailing his travels was not completed.
Sander's first book Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century. Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers' Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Sander's book Face of our Time was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. Around 1942, during World War II, he left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid.


AUGUST SANDER. Young Farmers


MARTI'N CHAMBI Festival in Ayaviri, Puno, 1940.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Edward Ranney, New Mexico, and the Martin Chambi Family, Peru.

Social Photography During the Depression

The documentary movement was born afresh in the United States in the 1930s. As William Stott has pointed out in his study of the period, the motive force was the "invisible nature" of the economic and social catastrophe known as the Great Depression. Lasting about ten years, from 1931 until American entry into the second World War, the period was characterized by high unemployment, labor unrest, and agricultural disaster caused by persistent drought and misuse of the land. Pervasive rural poverty resulted in waves of internal migrations as families from the heartland made their way west in search of jobs and arable land. The upheaval, both urban and rural, moved the Federal government under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal to relieve the suffering of "one third of a nation" by providing resettlement loans to farmers and work programs for the urban unemployed.

The most completely realized photography project of the period—one of a number sponsored by government agencies—was undertaken by the Historic Section of the Resettlement Administration, later the Farm Security Administration or F.S.A.. The project represented the New Deal's understanding that a visual documentation of conditions of work and life faced by farmers who suffered the calamities of drought and economic depression, and were in the process of being driven permanently from the land, was required to justify Federal expenditures for relief projects. Eventually in response to Congressional displeasure at the depiction of unrelieved poverty, photographers were directed to portray more positive aspects of the national experience. This project should be seen in relation to other Federally sponsored cultural endeavors in that all originated from the practical necessity of providing jobs and recording the effects of relief and re-construction programs. Besides the immediate relief they offered those on their payroll, they were influential in directing interest to the American scene and reviving a taste for realistic representation in the visual arts; as a result, in the United States the realist style enjoyed a brief period of coexistence with more formally conceived modes of expression derived from European modernist movements.

The patronage of the R.A./F.S.A. in particular exerted a bracing effect on social- documentary style because the Section Director, Roy E. Stryker, a brilliant if somewhat narrowly focused propagandist and the photographers not only recognized the need for evoking compassion, but possessed a fresh eye and a high regard for their craft. Another factor in the exceptional caliber of this project, which produced some 270,000 images, was the variety of artistic approaches employed by the individual photographers. For example, Ben Shahn, who worked with a 35mm camera, directed Stryker's attention to the human element as a source of emotional appeal; Dorothea Lange, who worked with a Rollei, upheld the need for the photographer to exercise control over the negatives, while Walker Evans, using an 8 x 10 inch view camera, insisted on the right to realize his own particular concept of documentation.



UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Arthur Rothstein and Roy Stryker, 1941.
Gelatin silver print. Formerly collection Arthur Rothstein, New York.
 

In common with other government agencies that embraced photographic projects, the F.S.A. supplied prints for reproduction in the daily and periodical press. In that project photographers were given shooting scripts from which to work, did not own their negatives, and had no control over how the pictures might be cropped, arranged, and captioned, their position was similar to that of photojournalists working For the commercial press—a situation that both Evans and Lange found particularly distasteful. The images were Transformed into photographic works of art when they were exhibited under the auspices of the Museum of Modern Art. For the first time, photographs made to document social conditions were accorded the kind of recognition formerly reserved for aesthetically conceived camera images.

The F.S.A. images were considered truthful expression by some and socialistic propaganda by others who mistook the emphasis on social issues for socialism itself, but Americans were nonetheless affected by them. Further-more, the impact of the Great Depression on rural communities has been perceived by later generations on the basis of certain key images. Arthur Rothstein's Dust Storm, Cimarron County and Lange's Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California arc die most famous icons of the time—the latter selected by Stryker as the picture to symbolize the concern of the government for displaced farmers—but it is the sum of the images that creates their force.

Few other officially sanctioned projects that dealt with rural themes used photography as successfully as the F.S.A., but both this and other New Deal efforts opened opportunities for African-American male photographers. The best known of this group, Gordon Parks, went on to tame in photojournalism and film; others, among them Robert McNeill and James Stephen Wright, found niches in picture agencies. Women, too, were included in the New Deal projects; besides Lange, Marion Post Wolcott toured the country for the F.S.A., and other agencies employed Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, and Martha McMillan Roberts. An effort by the writer Erskine Caldwell and die industrial-photographer-turned-photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White resulted in You Have Seen Their Faces, an influential amalgam of text and image. It contained dramatic close-ups of Southern tenant-farm families that were offset by a relatively reserved text based on inter-views and documentation of the conditions of farm tenancy. This inexpensive paperback revivified the form established by earlier social-reform tracts and helped prepare the way for the profusion of post-World War II photographic books on a wide spectrum of social issues.
 


ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN. Dust Storm, Cimarron County, 1937.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.



DOROTHEA LANGE. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

DOROTHEA LANGE

(May 25, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

 


MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE. Two Women, Lansdale, Arkansas, 1936.
Gelatin silver print. George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE

Margaret Bourke-White (1904 – 1971) was an American photographer and photojournalist.
Bourke-White was born in the Bronx, New York, to Joseph White (who came from an Orthodox Jewish family) and Minnie Bourke, the daughter of an Irish ship's carpenter and an English cook; she was a Protestant. She grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey (in a neighborhood now part of Middlesex), but graduated from Plainfield High School. Her father was a naturalist, engineer and inventor. His work improved the four-color printing process that is used for books and magazines. Her mother, Minnie Bourke, was a "resourceful homemaker." Margaret learned from her father perfection, from her mother, the unabashed desire for self-improvement." Margaret's success was not a family fluke. Her older sister, Ruth White, was well known for her work at the American Bar Association in Chicago, Ill., and her younger brother Roger Bourke White became a prominent Cleveland businessman and high-tech industry founder.
In 1922, she began studying herpetology at Columbia University, where she developed an interest in photography after studying under Clarence White (no relation). In 1925, she married Everett Chapman, but the couple divorced two years later. After switching colleges several times (University of Michigan, where she became a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority; Purdue University in Indiana, and Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio), Bourke-White enrolled at Cornell University, lived in Risley Hall, and graduated in 1927. A year later, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she started a commercial photography studio and did architectural and industrial photography. One of her clients was Otis Steel Company.

Margaret's success was due to both her people skills and her technical skills. Her experience at Otis is a good example. As she explains in Portrait of Myself, the Otis security people were reluctant to let her shoot for many reasons: First, steel making was a defense industry, so they wanted to be sure national security was not affected. Second, she was a woman and in those days people wondered if a woman and her delicate cameras could stand up to the intense heat, hazard, and generally dirty and gritty conditions inside a steel mill. When she got permission, the technical problems began. Black and white film in that era was sensitive to blue light, not the reds and oranges of hot steel -- she could see the beauty, but the pictures were coming out all black. She solved this problem by bringing along a new style of magnesium flare (which produces white light) and having assistants hold them to light her scenes. The result of her being able to work well with both people and technology resulted in some of the best steel factory pictures of that era, and these pictures earned her national attention.
In 1929, she accepted a job as associate editor of Fortune magazine. In 1930, she became the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. She was hired by Henry Luce as the first female photojournalist for Life magazine.

Her photographs of the construction of the Fort Peck Dam were featured in Life's first issue, dated November 23, 1936, including the cover. This cover photograph became such an iconic image that it was featured as the 1930s representative to the United States Postal Service's Celebrate the Century series of commemorative postage stamps. "Although Bourke-White titled the photo, 'New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam,' it is actually a photo of the spillway located three miles east of the dam," according to a United States Army Corps of Engineers Web page.
During the mid-1930s, Bourke-White, like Dorothea Lange, photographed drought victims of the Dust Bowl. Bourke-White and novelist Erskine Caldwell were married from 1939 to 1942, and together they collaborated on You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), a book about conditions in the South during the Great Depression.
She also traveled to Europe to record how Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were faring under Nazism and how Russia was faring under Communism. While in Russia, she photographed a rare "smiling Stalin" while in Moscow, and Stalin's grandmother when visiting Georgia. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II. In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression. She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded. Taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.
As the war progressed, she was attached to the U.S. army air force in North Africa, then to the U.S. Army in Italy and later Germany. She repeatedly came under fire in Italy in areas of fierce fighting.

"The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as 'Maggie the Indestructible.'" This incident in the Mediterranean refers to the sinking of the England-Africa bound British troopship SS Strathallan which she recorded in an article "Women in Lifeboats", in Life, February 22, 1943.
In the spring of 1945, she traveled through a collapsing Germany with General George S. Patton. In this period, she arrived at Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp. She is quoted as saying, "Using a camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me." After the war, she produced a book entitled Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, a project that helped her come to grips with the brutality she had witnessed during and after the war.
"To many who got in the way of a Bourke-White photograph — and that included not just bureaucrats and functionaries but professional colleagues like assistants, reporters, and other photographers — she was regarded as imperious, calculating, and insensitive."

She had a knack for being at the right place at the right time: She interviewed and photographed Mohandas K. Gandhi just few hours before his assassination. Eisenstaedt, her friend and colleague, said one of her strengths was that there was no assignment and no picture that was unimportant to her. She also started the first photo lab at Life.Bourke-White is known equally well in both India and Pakistan for her photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel and Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, upright in a chair.
The photojournalist also was "one of the most effective chroniclers" of the violence that erupted at the independence and partition of India and Pakistan, according to Somini Sengupta, the writer of an arts section of the New York Times. Sengupta called Bourke-White's photographs of the episode "gut-wrenching, and staring at them, you glimpse the photographer's undaunted desire to stare down horror." The photographer recorded streets littered with corpses, dead victims with open eyes, refugees with vacant eyes. "Bourke-White's photographs seem to scream on the page," Sengupta wrote. The pictures were taken just two years after Bourke-White photographed the newly captured Buchenwald.

Sixty-six of Bourke-White's photographs of the partition violence were included in a 2006 reissue of Khushwant Singh's 1956 novel about the disruption, Train to Pakistan. In connection with the reissue, many of the photographs in the book were displayed at "the posh shopping center Khan Market" in Delhi, India. "More astonishing than the images blown up large as life was the number of shoppers who seemed not to register them," Sengupta wrote. No memorial to the partition victims exists in India, according to Pramod Kapoor, head of Roli, the Indian publishing house coming out with the new book.Margaret also recorded the Korean War. There, rather than spend time at the front, she concentrated on the Chiri Mountain area in the south of Korea. She spent her time there because there was a behind-the-lines guerrilla war being fought in the area, and the human drama of the conflict was more evident.
During the 1950s, Bourke-White was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. She had just turned 50 when she had to slow her career to fight off the disease, initially with physical therapy, then with brain surgery in 1959 and 1961.
She wrote her autobiography, Portrait of Myself, which was published in 1963 and became a best seller, but she grew increasingly infirm and increasingly became more isolated in her home in Darien, Connecticut. Her living room there "was wallpapered in one huge, floor-to-ceiling, perfectly-stitched-together black-and-white photograph of an evergreen forest that she had shot in Czechoslovakia in 1938." A pension plan set up in the 1950s "though generous for that time" no longer covered her health-care costs. She also suffered financially from her personal generosity and "less-than-responsible attendant care."
She died in Connecticut, aged 67.



MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE. Bread Line during the Louisville flood, Kentucky, 1937

The urban experience during the Depression was photographed under the banners of the Federal Art Project and the Works Progress Administration, and by a group of socially committed photographers who formed the Film and Photo League, from which the Photo League (to be discussed shortly) emerged in 1936. The most fully realized project was a documentation of New York City initiated by Berenice Abbott. On the basis of her experiences as a photographer in Paris, and inspired by the work of Atget, she conceived of the city as a theme that might reflect "life at its greatest intensity."26 In Abbott's vision, Changing New York, as the project came to be called, was meant to evoke "an intuition of past, present and future," and to include, besides single images, series of related pictures supported by texts. With its strong contrast between the heavy geometrical curves of the buildings and the narrow shaft of light representing the sky, Cedar Street from William Street, one of a number of views that suggest something of the stable commercial underpinnings of the city, is typical of the resonant clarity of the photographs she made for the project. Documentation of the urban scene from the point of view of the political left became an issue toward the end of the 1920s when photographers in Europe especially felt moved to deal with unemployment and the rising strength of the working class. However, the aims of those involved in what came to be known as the worker-photographer movement differed significantly from the reformist goals of social documentarians like Riis and Hine. Instead of images meant to provide middle-class viewers with evidence of the need to improve conditions, photographs by participants in the worker-photographer organizations were intended to make other working people conscious of their conditions and their political strengths. European photographers of the left took their cue from social and stylistic developments in the Soviet Union (see Chapter 9), exhibiting camera images in places where working people congregated and reproducing them in the leftist press. For example, Der Arbeiter-Fotoqraf (The Worker-Photographer), a publication of the German worker-photographer movement, promoted the camera as a "weapon" in an ideological struggle, claiming that a "proletarian eye was essential for capturing a world invisible to the more privileged." That this outlook did not interfere with the expression of a poetic vision can be seen in images made by Walter Ball-hause, a working-class activist who used a Leica camera in the early 1930s to portray the unemployed, the elderly, and the children of the poor in Hannover. In the singular gesture of the child, anchored within a symmetrical and barren urbanscape, one senses the pervading uneasiness of the time. With politically oriented photographers most active in Eastern Europe, the style of leftist imagery was varied; indeed a Czech publication of 1934—Socialni fotoqgrafie (Social Photography)—specifically discussed the integration of avant-garde visual ideas and leftist political ideology. Images with strong political content were shown in two large international exhibitions held in Prague in 1933 and 1934, in which photographers from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Holland, and France participated.

Motivated less by political ideology than by a sense of impending catastrophe, Roman Vishniac, living in Berlin as a refugee from the Soviet Union where he had been trained in the biological sciences, produced an extensive documentation of Eastern European Jews in Poland on the eve of the Holocaust. Photographed on the streets and indoors, his subjects generally were unaware of being filmed, a circumstance that lends a vitality to this document of some 5,000 images, of which Entrance to the Ghetto, Cracow is one; they are made especially poignant by our knowledge today that everything—people, places, traditions—has vanished.

The worker-photographer movement had fleeting successes in England, where concern for the problems of the under-class was prompted more by personal sympathy than by class-conscious considerations. The well-known English photographer Humphrey Spender, employed as a photographer for the London Daily Mail, in 1937-38 participated in a project called "Mass-Observation," which was designed to be an absolutely "objective documentation," in the manner of an anthropological study, of life in the mill towns of the industrial north, Bill Brandt, initially attracted to Surrealism, returned to his British homeland in 1931 to depict the divisions between social classes in London as well as working-class life in mining villages. The long, bleak vista and inhospitable structures that all but engulf the tiny figures in Halifax seem to symbolize the enduring human spirit that is all but crushed by poverty and industrialism.


BERENICE ABBOTT. Cedar Street from William Street, New York, 1939.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

BERENICE ABBOTT

(July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991)

American photographer. She spent a term at the Ohio State University in Columbus (1917–18) and then studied sculpture independently in New York (1918–21) where she met Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. She left the USA for Paris in 1921 where she studied at the Acadйmie de la Grande Chaumiиre before attending the Kunstschule in Berlin for less than a year in 1923. From 1924 to 1926 she worked as Man Ray’s assistant and first saw photographs by Eugиne Atget in Man Ray’s studio in 1925. Her first one-woman show, at the gallery Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris in 1926, was devoted to portraits of avant-garde personalities such as Jean Cocteau, James Joyce and Andrй Gide. She continued to take portraits until leaving Paris in 1929, such as that of James Joyce (1927; see Berenice Abbott: Photographs, p. 26). After Atget’s death (1927) she bought most of his negatives and prints in 1928, and in 1929 she returned to New York. There she began a series of documentary photographs of the city and from 1935 to 1939 directed the ‘Changing New York’ project for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, which resulted in the book of photographs Changing New York (1939). Like Atget’s views of Paris these covered both the people and architecture of New York in a methodical and detached way. The images in Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday (1949) were motivated by a similar spirit. She also took various portrait photographs in the 1930s and 1940s, such as that of Max Ernst (1941).


BERENICE ABBOTT. New York at Night, 1933.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stephen R. Currier Memorial Fund.



WALTER BALLHAUSE. Unfitted, 1930-33. From the series Kinder in der Grossstadt (City Children).
Gelatin silver print. Schirmer/Mosel, Munich.



ROMAN VISHNIAC. Entrance to the Ghetto, Cracow, 1937.
Gelatin silver print. International Center of Photography, New York; Purchase.
Courtesy Mara Vishniac Kohn.



ROMAN VISHNIAC. Granddaughter and Grandfather, Warsaw, 1938.
Gelatin silver print. International Center of Photography, New York;
International Fund for Concerned Photography, Purchase. Courtesy Mara Vishniac Kohn.
 


HUMPHREY SPENDER. Street Scene in a Milltown, 1937-38.
(From Mass-Observation published as Worktown People, 1982).
Gelatin silver print. Falling Wall Press, Bristol, England.



BILL BRANDT. Halifax, 1936.
Gelatin silver print.

BILL BRANDT

(b Hamburg, 3 May 1904; d London, 20 Dec 1983).

English photographer of German birth. The son of a British father and a German mother, he suffered the traumas of World War I, followed by a long period of illness with tuberculosis. This affliction caused Brandt to spend much of his early youth in a sanitarium in Davos, Switzerland. Between the ages of 16 and 22 Brandt derived a lot of his knowledge of the world from illustrated books and magazines. His mother was an enthusiast for poster art and took Das Plakat, an up-to-date journal of graphic art that featured work of such contemporaries as Lucian Bernhard (1883–1972). As a boy Brandt became proficient in drawing and painting in watercolours.

During this same period, a number of Japanese photographers, with great interest in Western attitudes toward art and photography, found in the "new photography" (to be discussed in Chapter 9) the means for a humane portrayal of the hitherto despised and unrecorded lower classes. Horino Masao, a photographer of great versatility who also was interested in montage and industrial imagery, made large close-up portraits of working men, beggars, and street people. Similar subjects and approach can be seen in vibrant street images by Kuwabara Kineo and in documentations of life in the occupied territories of Manchuria by several of Japan's most notable photographers. By the 1940s, however, photographers had put their cameras at the service of the government bureaucracy or they portrayed the pleasures of rural life, as in the images made by Hamaya Hiroshi between 1940 and 1944 for Snow Country. The conflict that had expanded from China to a confrontation with the United Srates on the Pacific islands effectively ended a brief but exhilarating period of expressive documentation.

In the United States, the Photo League, formed in the mid-1930s by a group of politically conscious photographers, was committed to the tradition of straight picture-making that its members traced back to Hill and Adamson, Stieglitz, and Hine. With this concept, the League eventually encompassed a broad range of styles ind goals, but, as initially conceived by its photographer-rounders Sid Grossman and Sol Libsohn, its specific purpose was the promotion of documentary photography through a school and the establishment of "feature groups"—units organized to depict the less picturesque aspects of urban life, which they felt were being ignored by art photographers and Pictorialists. Projects included the Chelsea and Pitt Street documents, with the most fully realized being the Harlem Document. This was a three-year effort headed by Aaron Siskind and including Harold Corsini, Morris Engel, and Jack Manning (all later respected professionals), which produced a searching but sympathetic look at life in New York's most significant black neighborhood. An image of a woman and children by Engel (who became an independent filmmaker) encapsulates both the claustrophobia and the humanity of the ghetto, while Siskind's many images of street life in the same community reveal the way blacks "grasped a patch of happiness whenever and wherever they could find it."

Responding to the general movement in the arts toward more personalized modes of expression, League members adopted the concept of creative photography in the late 1940s, but despite this subtle shift away from pure documentation many former members continued their commitment to humanist ideals even after the organization's politically inspired demise in 1952. Former League president Walter Rosenblum, for instance, undertook a series of self-motivated projects to document life in East Harlem, in Haiti, and in the South Bronx; W. Eugene Smith, also a former president, continued his commitment to these ideals in Minamata; while rhers, among them Bernard Cole, Arthur Leipzig, and Dan Weiner, found a limited opportunity to treat humanistic themes in the flourishing field of postwar photojournalism.

Before the 1930s, Pictorialists and their supporters subscribed to the idea that art ought not to be utilitarian. n consequence, they were blind to the fact that genuine feeling and innovative vision might imbue camera images made for a social purpose with imagination and meaning. At the same time, those who used documentary works frequently disregarded the individual photographer and -eproduccd the images without credit and at times without permission. Often social documentary photographers were unknown unless their work was used in a specific con-text. The outstanding quality of the work done under the aegis of the F.S.A. and by Abbott for Changing New York were factors that helped transform this situation, demonstrating to the photographic community and to viewers at large that divisions between art and document are difficult to maintain when dealing with images of actuality. These and other works made clear that, no matter what its purpose, any camera image may transcend the mundaneness of its immediate subject and transmute matter into diought and feeling—the essential goal of all visual art. Recognizing that purposeful photographs also may enlarge vision and inspire compassion even after the specific problems they addressed have disappeared, the generation of photographers diat grew to maturity after die second World War rejected die compartmentalization of photographic expression diat had been die legacy of the Pictorialist movement. Instead they sought to imbue their work, no matter what its ultimate purpose, with the passion and immediacy found in social documentation at its best.


HORINO MASAO. Beggar, 1932.
Gelatin silver print.



KUWABARA KINEO. Scene at a Fair, 1936.
Gelatin silver print.



HAMAYA HIROSHI. Untitled, from Snow Country,
a Record of Folk Customs During the Lunar New Tear Celebrations in Niigata Prefecture, 1940-44.
Gelatin silver print.



SID GROSSMAN. Coney Island, 1947.
Gelatin silver print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.



BERNARD COLE. Shoemaker's Lunch, Newark, N.J., 1944.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Gwen Cole, Shelter Island, N.Y.



WALTER ROSENBLUM. Mullah Park, Bronx, New York, 1980.
Gelatin silver print.
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
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