History of photography

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History of photography
Abbe James
Allen Albert
Bailey David

Beaton Cecil
Cunningham Imogen
Carroll Lewis
Drtikol Frantisek
Duhrkoop Rudolf
Eisenstaedt Alfred
Feininger  Andreas
Halsman Philippe
Heartfield John
Horst P. Horst
Kasebier Gertrude
Kirkland Douglas
Lartigue Jacques Henri
Laughlin Clarence John


Maar Dora
Man Ray

Miller Lee
Munkacsi Martin


Outerbridge Paul


Rodchenko Alexander
Skoglund Sandy
Smith William Eugene
Smith Rodney
Tabard Maurice
  Watson Albert
The New Objectivity

In the period immediately following World War I, much photography was characterized by sharply defined imagery, especially of objects removed from their actual context. The clean lines and cool effects of this style—variously called the “New Objectivity,” the “new vision,” or “Precisionism”—was a reflection, perhaps, of the overarching role of industry and technology during the 1920s.

Strand, continuing in the direction he had unveiled in 1917, produced powerful, highly detailed close-ups of machines and organic matter and made sparkling landscapes in Gaspé, Quebec, and the American West. His approach changed again when he was invited to Mexico to produce educational films for the government. There he made a series of portraits (again with the prism lens) and landscapes, which he published in 1940 as gravure prints. Steichen, who had been in command of aerial photography for the American Expeditionary Forces, abandoned his earlier impressionistic handling in favour of crisp, sharply focused celebrity, fashion, and product images, which appeared in Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines. Others whose sharp, well-designed images of industrial products appeared in advertising brochures and magazines included Margaret Bourke-White, Paul Outerbridge, and Charles Sheeler.

A preference for a straight, highly detailed presentation of natural and manufactured forms also characterized the work of California photographer Edward Weston. Using large-format (8-by-10-inch [20.3-by-25.4-cm]) equipment with lenses stopped down to the smallest aperture, Weston, whose earlier career had been in commercial portraiture, formulated a method of “rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.” Further, Weston, like Strand, did not approve of cropping or hand work of any kind on the negative; both held that the final image should be composed in the ground glass of the camera prior to exposure.

Several Californians, a number of whom looked to Weston as a mentor, took up the concentration on organic forms and objects and the preference for using the smallest aperture of the lens to create maximum depth of field and sharpness. Known as Group f.64, for the smallest lens aperture, the group included, besides Weston and his son Brett, Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham. After seeing Strand’s negatives, Adams decided to pursue photography as a profession, specializing in photographing Western wilderness areas such as Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. His dramatic photographs masterfully captured the beauty of such natural wonders, and the popularity of his photographs helped raise awareness of the importance of preservation efforts. He also was a teacher of great persuasiveness who advocated the exact control of tonal quality through what he called the “zone system.”

In Europe this approach of favouring extremely sharp definition was known as Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”). Its outstanding proponents were the German photographers Karl Blossfeldt and Albert Renger-Patzsch. Blossfeldt made highly detailed and magnified images of plants, removed from their natural habitat. Renger-Patzsch, a professional photographer in Essen, was fascinated by the formal qualities of everyday objects, both organic and manufactured. Like those of his American counterparts, his images featured strong design components and stressed the materiality of substances rather than the maker’s emotional attitude toward the subject. He too believed that the final image should exist in all its completeness before the exposure was made and that it should be an unmanipulated record. His ideas and images, published in 1928 in Die Welt ist schön (“The World Is Beautiful”) and translated into a number of languages, exerted considerable influence on European photography of the time. Hans Finsler, of Swiss origin and working in Germany, Piet Zwart in the Netherlands, and Emmanuel Sougez and Florence Henri in France were among the many producing highly defined close-ups of objects and people in a style similar to that of the Neue Sachlichkeit.

A similarly objective approach characterized the work of photographers interested in the artistic ideas embodied in Constructivism; the movement proposed that photographs could be a means to present the commonplace from fresh vantage points and thereby reawaken interest in routine objects and processes. This idea, which originated in the Soviet Union and spread quickly to Germany and central European countries during the late 1920s and early 1930s, granted greater latitude for experimentation with form. Its foremost spokesman was Russian painter and ideologue Aleksandr Rodchenko, who employed distinctly unusual vantage points in order to give the mundane world a new appearance. The visual ideas underpinning Constructivism appealed to Hungarian photographer László Moholy-Nagy, who reinterpreted them during his tenure first at the Bauhaus in Weimar, then in Dessau, Germany, and later at the School of Design in Chicago, where they influenced several generations of American photographers.

Similar ideas were utilized by photographers in Japan, especially following the earthquake of 1923. Among those whose imagery reflected the new sharper style, with its emphasis on form rather than atmosphere, was Yasuzō Nojima, who gained a reputation for his incisive portraits, groundbreaking nudes, and landscapes. Shinzō Fukuhara’s photographs, particularly his landscapes, were also highly regarded.

Margaret Bourke-White
Margaret Bourke-White, original name Margaret White (born June 14, 1904, New York, New York, U.S.—died August 27, 1971, Stamford, Connecticut), American photographer known for her extensive contributions to photojournalism, particularly for her Life magazine work. She is recognized as having been the first female documentary photographer to be accredited by and work with the U.S armed forces.

Margaret White was the daughter of an engineer-designer in the printing industry. She attended Columbia University (1922–23), the University of Michigan (1923–25), Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), and Cornell University (A.B., 1927). During that period she took up photography, first as a hobby and then, after leaving Cornell and moving to New York City, on a professional freelance basis. She combined her own last name with her mother’s maiden name (Bourke) to create her hyphenated professional name. Beginning her career in 1927 as an industrial and architectural photographer, she soon gained a reputation for originality, and in 1929 the publisher Henry Luce hired her for his new Fortune magazine. In 1930 Fortune sent Bourke-White to photograph the Krupp Iron Works in Germany, and she continued on her own to photograph the First Five-Year Plan in the Soviet Union. She became one of the first four staff photographers for Life magazine when it began publication in 1936, and her series of photographs of Montana’s Fort Peck Dam was featured on the cover and used in the feature story of the first issue.

Throughout the 1930s Bourke-White went on assignments to create photo-essays in Germany and the Soviet Union, as well as the Dust Bowl in the American Midwest. Those experiences allowed her to refine the dramatic style she had used in industrial and architectural subjects. Those projects also introduced people and social issues as subject matter into her oeuvre, and she developed a compassionate humanitarian approach to such photos. In 1935 Bourke-White met the Southern novelist Erskine Caldwell, to whom she was married from 1939 to 1942. The couple collaborated on three illustrated books: You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), about Southern sharecroppers; North of the Danube (1939), about life in Czechoslovakia before the Nazi takeover; and Say, Is This the U.S.A. (1941), about the industrialization of the United States.

Working directly with the U.S. armed forces, Bourke-White covered World War II for Life. While crossing the Atlantic to North Africa, her transport ship was torpedoed and sunk, but Bourke-White survived to cover the bitter daily struggle of the Allied infantrymen in the Italian campaign. She then covered the siege of Moscow, which she wrote about in her book Shooting the Russian War (1942). Toward the end of the war, she crossed the Rhine River into Germany with General George Patton’s Third Army troops. Her photographs of the emaciated inmates of concentration camps and of the corpses in gas chambers stunned the world.

After World War II Bourke-White traveled to India to photograph Mohandas Gandhi and record the mass migration caused by the division of the Indian subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. During the Korean War she worked as a war correspondent and traveled with South Korean troops.

Stricken with Parkinson disease in 1952, Bourke-White continued to photograph and write and published several books on her work as well as her autobiography, Portrait of Myself (1963). She retired from Life magazine in 1969.

An iconic photograph that Margaret Bourke-White took of Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1946

Edward Weston
Edward Weston, (born March 24, 1886, Highland Park, Illinois, U.S.—died January 1, 1958, Carmel, California), major American photographer of the early to mid-20th century, best known for his carefully composed, sharply focused images of natural forms, landscapes, and nudes. His work influenced a generation of American photographers.

Early life and work
Weston was born into a family of some intellectual substance—his father was a medical doctor and his grandfather a professor of literature—but, as a young man, he found little redeeming virtue in books and did not finish high school. The learning that he finally achieved, while not negligible, was of that spotty and eccentric character that generally identifies the autodidact. At 16 he received his first camera as a gift from his father, and from that time everything that he read and all that he experienced, both artistically and personally, was processed as food for a fierce artistic ambition. After studying for a time at the Illinois College of Photography, in 1911 he moved to California, where he would spend most of his life.

In some ways, Weston would seem an unlikely candidate for the role of hero to modern American photography. By his mid-30s he was a skilled but unexceptional portrait photographer working in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale. He was also an active and very successful participant in the contests of the conservative photographic salons, a network of self-sanctioning clubs that awarded ribbons and medals. His work through the early 1920s was a better-constructed version of the standard fare of these salons—work in the Pictorialist style, in which photographers imitated paintings by suppressing detail, manipulating images in a darkroom, and depicting traditional painting subjects such as pastoral landscapes, romantic marine scenes, children and pets, still lifes, and nudes. Members of these salons tended to associate artistic virtue with a kind of abstractness that eliminated subjects of pointed specificity: the subject was seldom identifiable as a particular landscape, sailboat, or undressed woman, and it was rarely identifiably contemporary.

Beginning in the early 1920s, Weston became impatient with his easy victories in this milieu, and he began to work his way toward a specifically photographic aesthetic (i.e., one that addressed the particular qualities of photography, rather than the qualities of painting) and, more slowly, toward a broader and more vernacular definition of artistic subject matter. When he first began to challenge the standards of the salons, it was more in manner than content: his first, tentatively rebellious pictures of the early 1920s exhibit a new forcefulness of design and an appreciation of the flat picture plane, but they do not challenge the basic Pictorialist conception of appropriate content.

Until well into his 30s, Weston was geographically and intellectually isolated from the main currents of advanced American photography, and of modern art in general. Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler, and Ralph Steiner all worked in the East. In California, Ansel Adams had not yet begun his important work, and Imogen Cunningham was a long day’s journey north in San Francisco. While later photographers became widely known more through books and magazines than by virtue of their original prints, in the mid-1920s the best photomechanical reproduction was both rare and generally unsatisfactory, and so the work of other photographers was not readily available to Weston. It is startling to recall that no illustrated monograph existed on any of the aforementioned figures until 1929, when Carl Sandburg wrote Steichen the Photographer—about his brother-in-law.

Thus, to a remarkable degree, Weston invented a powerful version of modern photography out of his own imagination and prodigious will. He was voraciously curious and was influenced by the ideas and passions of other artists as much as by their work. In 1922, during a visit to New York, he met Stieglitz, and he later remembered the meeting as challenging and enlivening. The next year he went to Mexico with his student and mistress, Tina Modotti, and there met Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and other figures of the Mexican artistic renaissance, who received and criticized him as a fellow artist.

Early maturity
While in Mexico, Weston produced what are his first radically independent pictures, notably a series of heroic, frame-filling heads (e.g., Nahui Olin, Guadalupe Marin de Rivera, and Manuel Hernandez Galvan, all 1924), and similarly minimal works such as Palma Cuernavaca and Excusado, both from 1925.

In 1927 Weston returned to California, where he continued to explore pictorial ideas begun in Mexico in his famous close-up studies of shells, vegetables, rock forms, and semiabstract nudes. It does not diminish the great force and importance of these pictures to note that they are based on a very simple structure: that of object and ground. They are in design and allusion self-contained. Weston’s pepper series provides the most familiar example. The isolation of the subject from any reference to the outside world and the seamless acuity of its description deprives it of scale and context and allows it to operate as a metaphor for the organic unfolding of life itself.

It was during this period (c. 1930–33) that Weston developed his mature technique, abandoning soft-textured papers and slow, luxurious tonal gradations for a vocabulary that was fundamentally that of the industrial photographer: all-over sharpness, a full tonal scale, and smooth surface papers that would record the maximum of both tone and texture. For some portraits and nudes he used a Graflex camera, which could be held in his hands and which allowed quick response to a subject in flux, but for most of his work he used an 8 × 10-inch view camera and printed its negatives by contact.

In 1932 Weston became a founding member of Group f.64, a loose and short-lived collection of purist photographers that included Adams and Cunningham. Since 1917 he had kept a “daybook,” in which he confided his professional triumphs, his economic crises, his relationship to friends and family, his impressively demanding love life, and—most especially—the progress of his artistic life. For the critic and the student, it is important to note that in 1934 he stopped making regular entries in his diary, presumably outgrowing the need for it once he was ready to begin his greatest work.

From 1934 through 1948, his last working year, Weston continued to explore his favourite subject matter: natural forms, landscape, nudes, and people. His development was guided by a cool analytical intelligence that allowed him to proceed quite consciously from simpler to increasingly complex problems. The nature of this artistic evolution can perhaps be seen most clearly in the genre of landscape. In 1922 Weston wrote that his style of “straight” photography could not deal successfully with landscape, “for the obvious reason that nature unadulterated and unimproved by man—is simply chaos.” However, by the spring of 1929 he began to photograph Point Lobos, perhaps the longest-lasting and most fecund of all his subjects. At first he “did not attempt … any general vista,” but rather focused only on details of the roots and trunks of cypresses. Again expanding his views, however, two years later in his “daybook” he ruminated over “an open landscape, or rather a viewpoint which combines my close-up period with distance; a way I have been seeing lately.” By the mid-1930s his landscapes often included a horizon, and they described deep space in a naturalistic way, without sacrificing the formal rigour that he had achieved earlier within a shallow pictorial space.

The evolution of his nudes followed a comparable pattern of evolution: by the mid-1930s they began to represent not an abstract woman, but specific people, often with their faces visible, who exist in a particular environment at a particular moment. Similarly, the greatest of his portraits are those that he did of his own family in the mid-1940s as he unknowingly approached the end of his productive life. These portraits are so generous in their acceptance of the contingent world that they might be viewed as the apotheosis of the family snapshot, but in the clarity of their vision and the suppleness of their technique they are unforgettable.

In 1937 Weston received the first Guggenheim Fellowship given to a photographer. The fellowship was renewed for the following year, and the project resulted in the book California and the West (1940), which included an excellent text by Weston’s second wife, Charis Wilson. Other notable books on Weston’s work were published in the 1940s, including Fifty Photographs: Edward Weston (1947), the result of Weston’s own very interesting selection of his work, and the slim but very influential Edward Weston (1946, edited by Nancy Newhall), which accompanied his major one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Neither Weston nor his friends realized that a slight uncertainty of movement evident at the time of the show was a symptom of Parkinson’s disease. The disease quickly limited his mobility, and he made his last photograph, on Point Lobos, in 1948, a decade before his death.

During the period between the two world wars, the vital tradition of American photography might be imagined as an axis, with the work of Walker Evans at one end and that of Edward Weston at the other. Whereas Evans seemed to make his art out of plain facts, selected by a superior intelligence and arranged in the most stringent order, Weston made his out of tactile surfaces and organic forms, and, most of all, out of the pleasure of sight itself. Among Weston’s most conspicuous heirs one might count Minor White, Aaron Siskind, Jan Groover, and Ray Metzker.

John Szarkowski

Edward Weston. Pepper No. 30

Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams, (born February 20, 1902, San Francisco, California, U.S.—died April 22, 1984, Carmel, California), the most important landscape photographer of the 20th century. He is also perhaps the most widely known and beloved photographer in the history of the United States; the popularity of his work has only increased since his death. Adams’s most important work was devoted to what was or appeared to be the country’s remaining fragments of untouched wilderness, especially in national parks and other protected areas of the American West. He was also a vigorous and outspoken leader of the conservation movement.

Early life and work
Adams was a hopeless, rebellious student, but, once his father bowed to the inevitable and removed him from school at age 12, he proved a remarkable autodidact. He became a serious and ambitious musician who was considered by qualified judges (including the musicologist and composer Henry Cowell) to be a highly gifted pianist. After he received his first camera in 1916, Adams also proved to be a talented photographer. Throughout the 1920s, when he worked as the custodian of the Sierra Club’s lodge in Yosemite National Park, he created impressive landscape photographs. During this period he formed a powerful attachment—verging on devotion—to Yosemite Valley and to the High Sierra that guarded the valley on the east. It might be said that the most powerful and original work throughout his career came from the effort to discover an adequate visual expression for his near-mystical youthful experience of the Sierra.

While photography and the piano shared his attention during his early adulthood, by about 1930 Adams decided to devote his life to photography. (As late as 1945, however, he still thought enough of his playing to have a recording made of his interpretations of Beethoven, Chopin, and perhaps others.) In 1930 he met the American photographer Paul Strand and was shown the negatives that Strand was then making in New Mexico. Adams was deeply impressed with the simplicity of the images’ conception and by their rich and luminous tonality, a style in contrast to the soft-focus Pictorialism still in vogue among many contemporary photographers. The experience confirmed in him his evolution toward a purer and more realistic style. In 1932 Adams helped form Group f.64, a loose and short-lived association of West Coast photographers (including Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham) who favoured sharp focus and the use of the entire photographic gray scale, from black to white, and who shunned any effects borrowed from traditional fine arts such as painting.

By 1935 Adams was famous in the photographic community, largely on the strength of a series of articles written for the popular photography press, especially Camera Craft. These articles were primarily technical in nature, and they brought a new clarity and rigour to the practical problems of photography. It was probably these articles that encouraged Studio Publications (London) to commission Adams to create Making a Photograph (1935), a guide to photographic technique illustrated primarily with his own photographs. This book was a remarkable success, partly because of the astonishing quality of its letterpress reproductions, which were printed separately from the text and tipped into the book page. These reproductions were so good that they were often mistaken for original (chemical) prints.

“Mount Williamson—Clearing Storm” [Credit: Ansel Adams]By the time Making a Photograph was published, Adams had already established the subject matter—the natural environment of his beloved West Coast—and the pristine, technically perfect style that characterize his consistent oeuvre. His work is distinguished from that of his great 19th-century predecessors who photographed the American West—most notably, Carleton Watkins—by his concern for the transient and ephemeral. One might say that Watkins photographed the geology of the place, while Adams photographed the weather. This acute attention to the specifics of the physical world was also the root of his intense appreciation of the landscape in microcosm, in which a detail of the forest floor could be as moving as a grand vista. His work on this single extended motif expresses a remarkable variety of response, ranging from childish wonder, to languorous pleasure, to the biblical excitement of nature in storm, to the recognition of a stern and austere natural world, in which human priorities are not necessarily served. One might view this range in mood in Adams’s work to reflect the contrast between the benevolent generosity of the valley, with its cool, clear water and lush vegetation, and the desiccated, inhospitable stringency of the eastern slope of the Sierra.

The importance of Adams’s work was recognized in 1936 by Alfred Stieglitz, who awarded him the first one-artist show by a new photographer in his gallery, An American Place, since he had first shown Paul Strand 20 years earlier. However, many of Adams’s contemporaries thought that photographers—and even painters—should be making pictures that related more directly to the huge economic and political issues of the day. At the time, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and others were photographing the Dust Bowl and the plight of migrants; Margaret Bourke-White was capturing Soviet Russia and great engineering projects; and Walker Evans was recording the inscrutable—or at least ambiguous—face of America’s built culture. To some critics, these projects seemed more of the moment than did Adams’s impeccable photographs of remote mountain peaks in the High Sierra and of the lakes at their feet—so pure that they were almost sterile. Not until a generation later did it come to be widely understood that a concern for the character and health of the natural landscape was in fact a social priority of the highest order.

Adams increasingly used his prominent position in the field to increase the public acceptance of photography as a fine art. In 1940 he helped found the first curatorial department devoted to photography as an art form at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1946 he established at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco the first academic department to teach photography as a profession. He also revived the idea of the original (chemical) photographic print as an artifact, something that might be sold as an art object. His Portfolio I of 1948 offered 12 original prints of extraordinary quality for $100. Eventually, Adams produced seven such portfolios, the last in 1976.

Interestingly, in contrast to this work on behalf of the photographic print, Adams also became directly involved, and was often a motivator, in advances in photomechanical reproduction. Throughout the 1940s he continued to explore the technical possibilities of photography in this and other ways. In the early part of the decade he codified the technical principles that he had long practiced into a pedagogical system he called the “zone system,” which rationalized the relationship among exposure, development, and resulting densities in the photographic negative. The purpose of the system was ultimately not technical but rather expressive: it was a tool to aid in visualizing a finished photograph before the exposure was made. The first edition of his often-reprinted book The Negative was published in 1948; written for photographers and not the general reader, the book expresses Adams’s technical and aesthetic views in an uncompromising manner.

Later career
Most of Adams’s great work as a photographer was completed by 1950: only a handful of important pictures were made during the last half of his adult life. Rather, in his later life, he spent most of his energy as a photographer on reinterpreting his earlier work and on editing books of his own work (often with his frequent collaborator, Nancy Newhall).

An ardent conservationist since adolescence, from 1934 to 1971 Adams served as a director of the Sierra Club. (Later, in the 1980s, he explicitly and forcefully attacked the environmental policies of the very popular President Ronald Reagan and his secretary of the interior, James Watt.) Many of the books Adams generated in his later career were concerned not only with the art of photography but also with the goal of raising awareness for the campaign to preserve the natural landscape and the life it supported. The most notable of these was This Is the American Earth (1960; with Newhall), published by the Sierra Club. It was one of the essential books in the reawakening of the conservation movement of the 1960s and ’70s, along with Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There (1949) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). Other major titles by Adams include My Camera in the National Parks (1950) and Photographs of the Southwest (1976). The Portfolios of Ansel Adams (1977) reproduced the 90 prints that Adams first published (between 1948 and 1976) as seven portfolios of original prints. The results can thus be trusted to represent a selection from what the photographer considered his best work.

In 1980 Adams was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. Acknowledging Adams’s years of work as both a photographer and an environmentalist, the president’s citation said, “It is through [Adams’s] foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans.”

John Szarkowski

Ansel Adams. Church, Taos Pueblo (1942)

Imogen Cunningham
Imogen Cunningham, (born April 12, 1883, Portland, Oregon, U.S.—died June 24, 1976, San Francisco, California), American photographer who is best known for her portraits and her images of plant life.

Cunningham studied at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she developed an interest in photography. Her earliest prints were made in the tradition of Pictorialism, a style of photography that imitated academic painting from the turn of the century. After studying photography at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden, Germany, from 1909 to 1910, Cunningham opened a portrait studio in Seattle in 1910 and soon established a solid reputation. Her commercial portraiture was straightforward, but she continued to produce soft-focused allegorical prints. She married etcher Roi Partridge in 1915, and the couple moved to San Francisco in 1917.

By the early 1920s Cunningham began to change her style, creating close-up, sharply detailed studies of plant life and other natural forms. Her experiments with form allied her with other Modernist photographers at the time, and in 1932 Cunningham joined the association of West Coast photographers known as Group f.64. Like other members of the group, she rejected the soft-focused sentimental subjects that were then popular in favour of images such as Two Callas (c. 1929), which conveys a sensuous delight in nature.

In the early 1930s, Cunningham worked briefly for Vanity Fair and produced images of entertainers and celebrities. After the breakup of Group f.64, she ran a portrait gallery and taught at several California art schools. A retrospective monograph, Imogen! Imogen Cunningham Photographs, 1910–1973, was published in 1974, and her final photographs were published in After Ninety in 1977.

Dream, a 1910 photograph by Imogen Cunningham

Karl Blossfeldt
Karl Blossfeldt, (born June 13, 1865, Schielo, Germany—died December 9, 1932, Berlin), German photographer known best for his stark close-up portraits of plants, twigs, seeds, leaves, and other flora.

In 1881 Blossfeldt began his studies as an apprentice at the Art Ironworks and Foundry in Mägdesprung, Germany, where he studied sculpture and iron casting. He then moved to Berlin to study at the School of the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum). In 1890 Blossfeldt received a scholarship to study in Rome under Moritz Meurer, a decorative artist and professor of ornament and design. Along with several other assistants, Blossfeldt created and photographed casts of botanical specimens in and around Rome. He continued to work with Meurer through 1896 and traveled beyond Italy to North Africa and Greece to collect specimens. Beginning in 1898 Blossfeldt taught design at the School of the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule), and in 1930 he became professor emeritus. There he established a plant photography archive that he used to teach his students about design and patterns found in nature.

Blossfeldt had no formal training as a photographer and used homemade cameras that he outfitted with lenses capable of magnifying his subjects up to 30 times their natural size. The use of magnification resulted in images of extreme detail and clarity. With the precision of a botanist, Blossfeldt photographed the natural world for scientific and pedagogical purposes and inadvertently became a modern artist. His work was considered the forerunner to Neue Sachlichkeit photography, which favoured sharply focused documentarian images. In 1926, when Blossfeldt was already in his 60s, his work was exhibited to the public for the first time at Berlin’s avant-garde Galerie Nierendorf.The works exhibited there were published in the book Urformen der Kunst (1928; Art Forms in Nature [2003]). The first of his three photo books (the other two were Wundergarten der Natur, 1932; and Wunder in der Natur, 1942, the last published posthumously), it was enormously successful and remains one of the most-significant photo books of the 20th century.

Naomi Blumberg

Karl Blossfeldt. Untitled

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Albert Renger-Patzsch, (born June 22, 1897, Würzburg, Bavaria [Germany]—died September 27, 1966, Wamel Dorf, Über Soest, West Germany), German photographer whose cool, detached images formed the photographic component of the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) movement.

Renger-Patzsch experimented with photography as a teenager. After serving in World War I, he studied chemistry at Dresden Technical College. In 1920 he became director of the picture archive at the Folkwang publishing house in Hagen.

In 1925 Renger-Patzsch began to pursue photography as a full-time career as a freelance documentary and press photographer. He rejected both Pictorialism, which was in imitation of painting, and the experimentation of photographers who relied on startling techniques. In his photographs, he recorded the exact, detailed appearance of objects, reflecting his early pursuit of science. He felt that the underlying structure of his subjects did not require any enhancement by the photographer. In his book Die Welt ist schön (1928; “The World Is Beautiful”), he showed images from both nature and industry, all treated in his clear, transparent style. Such images were closely related to the paintings of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement of painters, who created detached and literal renderings of reality that were so extreme that they produced an eerie effect.

In the early 1930s, Renger-Patzsch taught photography. From the 1940s until his death, he focused on his own projects, working as a freelance photographer and publishing his photographs. His later subjects included natural landscapes, industrial landscapes (Eisen und Stahl, 1930), trees (Bäume, 1962), and stones (Gestein, 1966).

Albert Renger-Patzsch. Foxglove, 1922

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Aleksandr Mikhailovich Rodchenko, (born November 23 [December 5, New Style], 1891, St. Petersburg, Russia—died December 3, 1956, Moscow, Russia), Russian painter, sculptor, designer, and photographer who was a dedicated leader of the Constructivist movement.

Rodchenko studied art at the Kazan School of Art in Odessa from 1910 to 1914 and then went to Moscow to continue on at the Imperial Central Stroganov School of Industrial Art (now the Stroganov Moscow State University of Arts and Industry). In 1916 he began living with the artist Varvara Stepanova, whom he had met at the Kazan school and who was to become his companion both in art and in life. That same year Rodchenko met Vladimir Tatlin, who invited him to participate in the Futurist art exhibition “The Store.” Rodchenko entered the artistic circle of the radical Moscow avant-garde and began taking part in their intense creative life.

From 1918 to 1922 Rodchenko increasingly worked in the Constructivist style: a completely abstract, highly geometric style that he painted by using a ruler and compass. In 1918 Rodchenko presented a solo show in Moscow. That year he also painted a series of black-on-black geometric paintings in response to the famous White on White painting of his rival, Kazimir Malevich. That spirit of rivalry with the older generation of avant-garde painters proved an important creative stimulus for Rodchenko. As head of the group of young Constructivists, he engaged in a heated battle for “industrial art” over easel painting. The battle was won by the “industrial artists,” in the field of theory (Rodchenko replaced Wassily Kandinsky as the director of the Institute of Artistic Culture) as well as in the teaching and practice of art. In 1919 Rodchenko began to make three-dimensional constructions out of wood, metal, and other materials, again by using geometric shapes in dynamic compositions; some of those hanging sculptures were, in effect, mobiles.

In the 1920s he took up other art forms, among them photography; furniture design; stage and motion-picture set design; and poster, book, and typographic design. He collaborated with poet Vladimir Mayakovsky on a number of projects, including Mayakovsky’s book Pro eto (1923; “About This”; Eng. trans. That’s What), for which Rodchenko did the book design and created accompanying photomontages. During 1927 and 1928 Rodchenko designed all 24 covers for the avant-garde art and leftist political publication Novy LEF (“New LEF”).

Marginalized as far as the official Soviet art—Socialist Realism—was concerned, Rodchenko centred all his innovation and creativity on photography and shaping with his distinct style the photographic record of Soviet industrialization and photographic propaganda. He created distinct images that featured unusual—often oblique—angles and showed the geometric influence of his Constructivist background. His art photographs were exhibited, and his photojournalist work was published widely during the late 1920s and early ’30s. He also taught art and design beginning in 1920.

He returned to painting in the late 1930s and created Abstract Expressionist works in the 1940s. Beginning with his appointment in 1920 and throughout the next decades, he also served as the Bolshevik government’s director of the Museum Bureau and Purchasing Fund, through which he helped to establish public art museums throughout the Russian provinces with collections of modern and contemporary works.

Andrei D. Sarabianov

Aleksandr Rodchenko.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, (born July 20, 1895, Bácsborsód, Hungary—died November 24, 1946, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), Hungarian-born American painter, sculptor, photographer, designer, theorist, and art teacher, whose vision of a nonrepresentational art consisting of pure visual fundamentals—colour, texture, light, and equilibrium of forms—was immensely influential in both the fine and applied arts in the mid-20th century. He is also known for his original approach to art education.

Moholy-Nagy studied law in Budapest and served in World War I. He began to paint in 1917. After joining the poetry circle of Endre Ady, he published Cubist-influenced woodcuts in the Hungarian avant-garde journal Ma (“Today”). In 1921 he went to Berlin, where from 1923 to 1929 he headed the metal workshop of the famous avant-garde school of design known as the Bauhaus. With the German architect Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1928, Moholy-Nagy edited the 14 publications known as the Bauhausbook series. During his Bauhaus years Moholy-Nagy developed the theories of art education for which he is known. He created a widely accepted curriculum that focused on developing students’ natural visual gifts instead of teaching them specialized skills. His dictum was: “Everybody is talented.” At the Bauhaus itself, fine-arts training was abolished in favour of “designing the whole man.”

As a painter and photographer Moholy-Nagy worked predominantly with light. He experimented with photograms, images composed by placing objects directly on light-sensitive paper, and he constructed “light-space modulators,” oil paintings on transparent or polished surfaces that included mobile light effects.

After he left the Bauhaus in 1929, Moholy-Nagy became involved in stage design and filmmaking. Fleeing from Nazi Germany in 1934, he went to Amsterdam and London, and in 1937 he moved to Chicago to organize the New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design of the Illinois Institute of Technology), the first American school based on the Bauhaus program.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Gelatin silver print photogram 1922-1924


IF ANY PERIOD can be said to have encompassed the full potential of photography it would have to be the era between the two World Wars. Some 80 years after the medium first appeared, photographers and their patrons discovered forms and uses for camera images that imbued them with exceptional inventiveness and immediacy. Photography was not only enriched by expanded roles in journalism, advertising, and publicity, but it was nourished also by acceptance within avant-garde movements in the graphic arts. In fact, it might with justice be claimed that except for holography all later directions were foretold during this period. The extraordinary vitality of the medium was apparent in many different localities—in England, Erance, Central Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, and North America—yet photographs also retained distinctive national characteristics. This chapter will survey the range of experimentation and explore the relationship of the "new vision," as it is sometimes called, to other visual art of the time; Chapter 10 will be concerned with the flowering of the medium in journalism, advertising, and book publication.

A distinguishing feature of the photography of the 1920s was the emergence of a wide variety of techniques, styles, and approaches, all displaying unusual vigor. Responding to greater economic opportunities in the medium and involved in the intense intellectual, political, and cultural ferment that followed the first World War, many photographers became conscious of the effects of technology, urbanization, cinema, and graphic art on camera expression. In addition to the "isms" of prewar avant-garde art—especially Cubism—the aesthetic concepts associated with Constructivism, Dadaism, and Surrealism inspired a climate of experimentation, with photo-collage, montage, cameraless images, nonobjective forms, unusual angles, and extreme close-ups marking the photographic expression of the era. In common with other visual artists, photographers also took note of Freudian and related theories of the psyche and of the part that images might play in the social and political struggles of the times.

In Europe the new vision was nurtured by the complex artistic and social tendencies that emerged following the revolutionary uprisings at the end of the first World War. Embodied in Russian Constructivism, the German Bauhaus—a school of architecture and design—and the

Deutscbes Werkbund (German Work Alliance), these movements and organizations viewed artistic expression as concerned with the analysis and rational reconstruction of industrial society rather than as a means of producing unique decorative objects based on personal feelings or experiences for an elite class. With art activity conceived as a way to improve the lives of ordinary people through the redesign of their physical and mental environments, the artist emerged as an individual who "remained true . . . to reality [in order] to reveal the true face of our time."2 In the eyes of a significant number of artists, the various media were no longer regarded as discrete entities; the applied arts were considered as important as the "fine" arts of painting and sculpture; and respect for machine technology led to a high regard for both printing press and camera as the most effective visual instruments of the age.

Experimentation in Europe: Light Graphics

The developments that followed the end of the first World War had been heralded earlier in the breakdown of conventional modes of artistic expression. As the 1914-18 conflict raged in Europe, Dadaists urged that the moribund art of the past be jettisoned; that new themes and new forms be found to express the irrational nature of society. This attitude opened fertile fields for all kinds of visual experimentation, including the production of cameraless photographic images. It will be recalled that "photogenic drawing"—Talbot's name for prints made by exposing real objects placed directly on light-sensitive paper—actually had preceded photography through the use of a camera. In updating this concept, photographers of the new vision employed a variety of substances and light sources to create nonreprescntational images. The earliest examples were made in 1918 by Christian Schad, a German artist soon to become a leading exponent of the New Objectivity in painting, who exposed chance arrangements of found objects and waste materials—torn tickets, receipts, rags—on photographic film; the results, baptized Schadographs by the Dada leader Tristan Tzara, expressed the Dadaist interest in making art from junk materials.

Independently, the American Man Ray (born Emmanuel Rudnitsky), a close associate of Duchamp and Francis Picabia during their New York Dada period, undertook similar experiments that the photographer called Rayographs (pi. no. 484), a designation incorporating both his name and a reference to their source in light. Made soon after Man Ray's arrival in Paris in 1921, these cameraiess images were effected by arranging translucent and opaque materials on photographic paper, at times actually immersed in the developer during their exposure to moving or stationary light sources. Indifferent to conventional distinctions between fine and applied art yet devoted to the expression of intuitive states of being and chance effects, Man Ray sought commercial as well as artistic outlets for his extensive visual output that, besides Rayographs, included straight photographs, paintings, collages, assemblages, and constructions.

Cameraiess images also were called photograms (pi. no. 485), the name given the technique worked out together by Lucia Moholy and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Originally from Czechoslovakia and Hungary, respectively, but active after 1923 at the Bauhaus in Germany, these two artists held that, like other products produced by machine, photo-graphic images—cameraiess and other—should not deal with conventional sentiments or personal feelings but should be concerned with light and form. It is ironic that even though they promoted photography as the most fitting visual form for the machine age precisely because the camera image could be easily and exactly replicated, photograms are unique examples for which no matrix exists for duplication. Other Europeans who experimented with cameraiess imagery—or light graphics, as this aspect of photography came to be called—include Raoul Hausmann, Gyorgy Kepes, Kurt Schwitters, die Russians El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko, the Czech artist Jaromir Funke, and Curtis Moffat, an English assistant to Man Ray. For reasons to be discussed presently, interest in this form of expression did not develop in the United States until after the Bauhaus relocated in Chicago in 1938 as the Institute of Design.

CHRISTIAN SCHAD. Schadograpb, 1918.
Gelatin silver print. Edward L. Bafford Photography Collection, Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery,
University of Man-land, Baltimore. Courtesy Mrs. Christian Schad.

CHRISTIAN SCHAD. Amourette. 1918

MAN RAY. Untitled (Wire Spiral and Smoke), 1923.
Gelatin silver print. Private Collection, New York.


(b Philadelphia, PA, 25 Aug 1890; d Paris, 18 Nov 1976).

American photographer and painter. He was brought up in New York, and he adopted the pseudonym Man Ray as early as 1909. He was one of the leading spirits of DADA and SURREALISM and the only American artist to play a prominent role in the launching of those two influential movements. Throughout the 1910s he was involved with avant-garde activities that prefigured the Dada movement. After attending drawing classes supervised by Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Francisco Ferrer Social Center, or Modern School, he lived for a time in the art colony of Ridgefield, NJ, where he designed, illustrated and produced several small press pamphlets, such as the Ridgefield Gazook, published in 1915, and A Book of Diverse Writings.


Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Baxford.


Collage and Montage

In Europe, an even more fertile field for experimentation involved collage and montage—techniques whose terms sometimes are used interchangeably. The former (from the French colter, to glue) describes a recombination of already existing visual materials effected by pasting them Together on a nonsensitized support and, if desired, re-photographing the result. Montage refers to the combining of camera images on film or photographic paper in the darkroom. The creation of a new visual entity from existing materials appealed to avantgarde artists in part because it was a technique employed by naive persons to create pictures—a folkcraft, so-to-speak —and in part because it used mass-produced images and therefore did not carry the aura of an elitist activity. These artists also felt that the juxtaposition of unlikely materials might serve to arouse feelings in the spectator that conventional photographic views no longer had the power to evoke. Besides, collage and montage promised to be extremely malleable—amenable to the expression of both political concerns and private dreams. Constructivists in the Soviet Union, who regarded the visual arts as a meansto serve revolutionary ideals, hailed collage and montage as a means to embody social and political messages in an unhackneyed way, while for artists involved with personal fantasies these techniques served to evoke witty, mysterious, or inexplicable dimensions. Still other individuals, inspired by the aesthetic elements of Cubism, used these techniques to control texture, form, and tonality to achieve nuanccd formal effects.

Although a number of artists have claimed to be inventors of montage, as with cameraless photography it was an old idea whose time had come. Hausmann, painter, poet, and editor of a Dada journal, was one of its earliest partisans, realizing in the summer of 1918, as he later recalled, "that it is possible to create pictures out of cut-up photographs." Needing a name for the process, he, along with artists George Grosz, Helmut Herzfelde (who later renamed himself John Heartfield), and Hannah Hoch, selected photomontage as a term that implies an image "engineered" rather than "created." To these originators, montage seemed to reflect "the chaos of war and revolution," visible in Hausmann's preoccupation with savagery and irrationality and in Hoch's expressions of socially generated fantasies. A strong political component characterizes the work of Heartfield (pi. no. 488), who was initially a Dadaist and was pictured by his colleague Grosz as the quintessential photomontagist, or "Dada Monteur," of the era.

Photographers in Italy found montage a versatile technique with which to express "spiritual dynamism," the term they used to describe their interest in urbanism, energy, and movement that had emerged in the wake of the Futurist Manifesto of 1908. Then, the brothers Anton Giulio and Arturo Bragaglia (among others) had incorporated the scientific experiments of Marey into what they called "Photodynamks," making multiple exposures on a single plate to suggest a world in flux. After World War I, Italian modernists, among them Vincio Paladini and Wanda Wulz, continued in this vein, combining printed and pasted materials in two and three dimensions with multiple exposures.

Montage found favor in the Soviet Union during the 1920s as an instrument for revealing what was termed "documentary truth." Instead of relying on conventional time-consuming modes of graphic representation, Constructivists, notably Lissitzky and Rodchenko, sought to awaken working-class viewers to the meaning of contemporary socialist existence by utilizing photographs and text in visual messages. Like their counterparts in Russian Him (then considered the most advanced of the era), they were convinced that montage—which they called "deformation" of the photograph—and straight camera images taken extremely close to the subject or from unusual angles could communicate new realities.

Toward the end of the 1920s, true photographic montage, effected on light-sensitive materials rather than by cutting and pasting, became more commonplace and was sometimes combined with other darkroom manipulations such as solarization. Owing to its flexibility, montage could be structured to serve different stylistic and thematic ends—personal as well as political. To cite only a few examples, Anton Stankowski, working in Germany, explored an enigmatic psychological component in Eye-Montage of 1927; the Czech photographer Karel Teige embraced a similar theme in a 1937 cover for a Surrealist journal; and Man Ray's ironic wit is seen in the oft-reproduced Violon d'lngres (pi. no. 494). Socially oriented concerns were expressed by Alice Lex-Nerlinger, part of a German husband and wife team, in Seamstress of 1930. Incidentally, the themes of eye, hand, and work visible in several of these images engaged many photographers of the period whether they worked with montage or straight images. The eye obviously can be taken as a symbol for camera or photographer, while the combined emphasis on all of these elements suggest that camera work was seen as the result of both craft and vision, a concept embodied in the theories and programs of Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and the Werkbund.

HANNAH HOCH. The Cut of the Kitchen Knife, 1919.
Montage. National galerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.

RAOUL HAUSMANN. Mechanical Toys, 1957.
Gelatin silver print; double exposure of two photographs showing Hausmann's
Dadaist sculpture Mechaniscber Kopf, 1919. Schirmer/Mosel, Munich.


(b Vienna, 12 July 1886; d Limoges, 1 Feb 1971).

Austrian photomontagist, painter, photographer, printmaker, writer and theorist. He trained in the academic artistic tradition under his father, Victor Hausmann (1859–1920). In 1900 he went to Berlin, where he later became a central figure in Dada. His important friendship with the eccentric architect and mystical artist Johannes Baader (1875–1956) began in 1905. In the first years of the next decade he was associated with such artists as Erich Heckel and Ludwig Meidner and produced numerous paintings, including Blue Nude (1916; Rochechouart, Mus. Dépt.), and woodcuts, several of which were published in his book Material der Malerei Plastik Architektur (Berlin, 1918). These works blended Expressionism with the influences of artists then exhibiting at Herwarth Walden’s Sturm-Galerie: Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay, Arthur Segal and others. Around 1915 his widening contacts with the writers Salomon Friedländer and Franz Jung led to innumerable theoretical and satirical writings that were published in Der Sturm, Die Aktion, Die freie Strasse and other magazines of the era. Hausmann’s views reflected a diversity of influences ranging from biologist Ernst Haeckel and psychologist Otto Gross, to Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, to Eastern philosophers including Laozi, and to such anarchists as Max Stirner. In 1915 he also met Hans Richter and Hannah Höch; Höch became Hausmann’s close companion until 1922. By 1917 he was associated with Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield and Wieland Herzfelde, who together formed the nucleus of Dada in Berlin during 1918–22.

JOHN HEARTFIELD. Adolf the Superman; He Eats Gold and Spews Idiocies, 1932.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Mrs. Gertrud Heartfield, Berlin.


(b Berlin, 19 June 1891; d Berlin, 26 April 1968).

German photomontagist, draughtsman, typographer and stage designer. After a difficult childhood owing to the persecution of his father for his political beliefs, he studied art at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich from 1907 to 1911, specializing in poster design. In 1912 he took his first job in a printing works in Mannheim, moving to Berlin in 1913, where he and his brother Wieland Herzfelde made contact with avant-garde circles. Heartfield’s experiences in World War I led him to conclude that the only worthy art was that which took account of social realities. He destroyed all his early work.

Gelatin silver print. Weston Gallery, Inc., Carmel, Cal.

ALEXANDER RODCHENKO. Montage, c. 1923.
Gelatin silver print. Sovfoto Magazine and VAAP, MOSCOW.


(b St Petersburg, 23 Nov 1891; d Moscow, 3 Dec 1956).

Russian painter, sculptor, designer and photographer. He was a central exponent of Russian Constructivism, owing much to the pre-Revolutionary work of Malevich and Tatlin, and he was closely involved in the cultural debates and experiments that followed the Revolution of 1917. In 1921 he denounced, on ideological grounds, easel painting and fine art, and he became an exponent of Productivism (CONSTRUCTIVISM) in many fields, including poster design, furniture, photography and film. He resumed painting in his later years. His work was characterized by the systematic way in which from 1916 he sought to reject the conventional roles of self-expression, personal handling of the medium and tasteful or aesthetic predilections. His early nihilism and condemnation of the concept of art make it problematic even to refer to Rodchenko as an artist: in this respect his development was comparable to that of Dada, although it also had roots in the anarchic activities of Russian Futurist groups.

ANTON STANKOWSKI. Eye-Montage, 1927.
Gelatin silver print. Prakapas Gallery, Bronxville, N.Y.


Anton Stankowski (June 18, 1906 - December 11, 1998) was a German graphic designer, photographer and painter. He developed an original Theory of Design and pioneered Constructive Graphic Art. Typical Stankowski designs attempt to illustrate processes or behaviours rather than objects. Such experiments resulted in the use of fractal-like structures long before their popularisation by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975.
Anton Stankowski was born in Gelsenkirchen, Westphalia. Before embarking on the profession of graphic designer, Stankowski worked as a decorator and church painter. In 1927 he attended the Folkwang Academy with fellow photographer, Max Burchartz.
Stankowski's work is noted for straddling the camps of fine and applied arts by synthesising information and creative impulse. He was inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Malevich and Kandinsky. Stankowski advocated graphic design as a field of pictorial creation that requires collaboration with free artists and scientists.
Despite producing many unique examples of concrete art and photo-graphics, Stankowski is best known for designing the simple trademark of the Deutsche Bank.
By 1980, Stankowski had produced a volume of trademarks for clients in Germany and Switzerland. In 1983, he established the Stankowski Foundation to award others for bridging the domains of fine and applied art. Following his death in December 1998, the German Artist Federation awarded Anton Stankowski the honorary Harry Graf Kessler Award for his life work.

ANTON STANKOWSKI. Suring, 1929-1934

KAREL TEIGE. Untitled, 1937. Montage.
Collection Jaroslav Andel, New York.


Karel Teige (December 13, 1900 – October 1, 1951) was the major figure of the Czech avant-garde movement Devetsil (Nine Forces) in the 1920s, a graphic artist, photographer, and typographer. Teige also worked as an editor and graphic designer for Devětsil's monthly magazine ReD (Revue Devetsilu).
With evidently endless energy, Teige introduced modern art to Prague. Devetsil-sponsored exhibitions and events brought international avant-garde figures like Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Paul Klee, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Walter Gropius, among many others, to lecture and perform in Prague. Teige interpreted their work, sometimes literally, for the Czech audience. In his 1935 Prague lecture, André Breton paid tribute to his "perfect intellectual fellowship" with Teige and Nezval: "Constantly interpreted by Teige in the most lively way, made to undergo an all-powerful lyric thrust by Nezval, Surrealism can flatter itself that it has blossomed in Prague as it has in Paris."

Although not an architect, Teige was an articulate and knowledgeable architecture critic, an active participant in CIAM, and friends with Hannes Meyer, the second director of the Bauhaus. Teige and Meyer both believed in a scientific, functionalist approach to architecture, grounded in Marxist principles. In 1929 he famously criticized Le Corbusier's Mundaneum project (planned for Geneva but never built) on the grounds that Corbusier had departed from rational functionalism, and was on his way to becoming a mere stylist. Teige believed that 'the only aim and scope of modern architecture is the scientific solution of exact tasks of rational construction.
After welcoming the Soviet army as liberators, Teige was silenced by the Communist government in 1948. In 1951 he died of a heart attack, said to be a result of a ferocious Soviet press campaign against him as a 'Trotskyite degenerate,' his papers were destroyed by the secret police, and his published work was suppressed for decades.

MAN RAY. Violon d'Ingres, 1924.
Gelatin silver print. Savage Collection, Princeton, N.J.

ALICE LEX-NERLINGER. Seamstress, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Julien Lew Collection,
Gift of Jean and Julien Levy, 1975.

Experimental approaches

By 1916 abstract ideas were appealing to a number of other photographers. Photo-Secessionist Alvin Langdon Coburn, living in England, created a series of photographs known as vortographs, in which no subject matter is recognizable. During the late 1910s, students and faculty at the Clarence H. White School of Photography (started by another former colleague of Stieglitz), in particular Bernard S. Horne and Margaret Watkins, also produced works that displayed the influence of Modernist abstraction.

Between the two world wars, an experimental climate—promoted by Constructivist ideology and by Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus—admitted an entire range of new directions in photography. One aspect of this experimentalism involved eschewing subject matter and instead creating photographs that more closely resembled abstract paintings. Photographers again manipulated images, experimented with processes, and used multiple images or exposures. Sometimes, rather than experimenting with the camera itself, they experimented with light and sensitized paper. For a brief time this direction was allied with Dadaist ideas about accident, chance, and the subconscious. One important exponent of photographic experimentalism was the American expatriate Dada artist Man Ray, whose “rayographs,” photographs that appeared as series of swirling abstract shapes, were created without a camera by exposing objects placed on sensitized paper to light.

Cameraless photography, which came to be called “light graphics,” also appealed to Moholy-Nagy and his wife, Lucia Moholy, who called the products of their experimentation “photograms.” Photographs made by using this kind of manipulation of light could have completely abstract shapes or forms or feature recognizable objects. A number of artists in central Europe also manipulated light and objects to produce abstract images; among them were Jaroslav Rössler and Gyorgy Kepes, who eventually taught at the Chicago Institute of Design. There Kepes was instrumental in introducing its methods to American photographers, among them Carlotta Corpron, who produced a series of abstractions by using a device, called a light modulator, favoured at the Bauhaus.

The manipulative strategies of photocollage and montage had considerable appeal during the interwar period in part because—by appropriating “content” from other sources—they could deal with complex political or psychological feelings and ideas. Czech and German artists were especially drawn to this type of experimentation. Herbert Bayer, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, and Hannah Höch were unusually adept in their innovative use of collage and montage to make ironic comments on a range of political and social issues in German society. Heartfield, whose work appeared on book jackets and posters, savaged the political thuggery behind the rise of Nazism by juxtaposing political imagery—for example, a stock photograph of Hitler—with unexpected, provocative imagery. Höch concentrated on portraying the role of the “new woman” emerging in the chaos of postwar German society; for example, the title of one work by Höch, The Cut with the Kitchen Knife, suggests a female domain, yet the image shows women freed from housewifely duties, cavorting among machinery and political figures as part of the world at large. Similarly, montage enabled Soviet Constructivists to suggest complex ideas, as in El Lissitzky’s self-portrait, which integrates drafting tools and geometric shapes to suggest that the artist himself was an architect of society.

Man Ray
Man Ray, original name Emmanuel Radnitzky (born August 27, 1890, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.—died November 18, 1976, Paris, France), photographer, painter, and filmmaker who was the only American to play a major role in both the Dada and Surrealist movements.

The son of Jewish immigrants—his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress—Radnitzky grew up in New York City, where he studied architecture, engineering, and art, and became a painter. As early as 1911, he took up the pseudonym of Man Ray. As a young man, he was a regular visitor to Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” gallery, where he was exposed to current art trends and earned an early appreciation for photography. In 1915 Man Ray met the French artist Marcel Duchamp, and together they collaborated on many inventions and formed the New York group of Dada artists. Like Duchamp, Man Ray began to produce ready-mades, commercially manufactured objects that he designated as works of art. Among his best-known ready-mades is The Gift (1921), a flatiron with a row of tacks glued to the bottom.

In 1921 Man Ray moved to Paris and became associated with the Parisian Dada and Surrealist circles of artists and writers. Inspired by the liberation promoted by these groups, he experimented with many media. His experiments with photography included rediscovering how to make “cameraless” pictures, or photograms, which he called rayographs. He made them by placing objects directly on light-sensitive paper, which he exposed to light and developed. In 1922 a book of his collected rayographs, Les Champs délicieux (“The Delightful Fields”), was published, with an introduction by the influential Dada artist Tristan Tzara, who admired the enigmatic quality of Man Ray’s images. In 1929, with his lover, photographer and model Lee Miller, Man Ray also experimented with the technique called solarization, which renders part of a photographic image negative and part positive by exposing a print or negative to a flash of light during development. He and Miller were among the first artists to use the process, known since the 1840s, for aesthetic purposes.

Man Ray also pursued fashion and portrait photography and made a virtually complete photographic record of the celebrities of Parisian cultural life during the 1920s and ’30s. Many of his photographs were published in magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and Vogue. He continued his experiments with photography through the genre of portraiture; for example, he gave one sitter three pairs of eyes, and in Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) he photographically superimposed sound holes, or f holes, onto the photograph of the back of a female nude, making the woman’s body resemble that of a violin. He also continued to produce ready-mades. One, a metronome with a photograph of an eye fixed to the pendulum, was called Object to Be Destroyed (1923)—which it was by anti-Dada rioters in 1957.

Man Ray also made films. In one short film, Le Retour à la raison (1923; Return to Reason), he applied the rayograph technique to motion-picture film, making patterns with salt, pepper, tacks, and pins. His other films include Anémic cinéma (1926; in collaboration with Duchamp) and L’Étoile de mer (1928–29; “Star of the Sea”), which is considered a Surrealist classic.

In 1940 Man Ray escaped the German occupation of Paris by moving to Los Angeles. Returning to Paris in 1946, he continued to paint and experiment until his death. His autobiography, Self-Portrait, was published in 1963 (reprinted 1999).

Man Ray, Lampshade, reproduced in 391, n. 13, July 1920

Lucia Moholy
Lucia Moholy, née Lucia Schulz (born January 18, 1894, Prague, Bohemia (now in Czech Republic)—died May 17, 1989, Zürich, Switzerland), Bohemian-born British photographer, teacher, and writer best known for her documentary photographs of the Bauhaus, the noted German school of design, architecture, and applied arts.

Moholy pursued some schooling at the University of Prague in the early 1910s, but in 1915 she turned her attention to publishing and worked as a copy editor and as an editor for a number of publishing houses in Germany. For a brief period about 1919 she also published writings with a radical, anarchist bent under the pseudonym Ulrich Steffen. In 1920 she met László Moholy-Nagy at the Ernst Rowohlt publishing house in Berlin, and she married him in 1921. When Moholy-Nagy became a teacher in 1923 at the Weimar Bauhaus—architect Walter Gropius’s school of design (founded 1919)—Moholy joined him in Weimar and became an apprentice in Otto Eckner’s Bauhaus photography studio. From 1925 to 1926, she also studied at the Leipzig Academy for Graphic and Book Arts (now the Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig), becoming skilled in photography and darkroom processes. (A formal course in photography had not yet been established at the Bauhaus at that time.) She set up her first darkroom in 1926 in the house she shared with Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus.

Moholy spent her five years at the Bauhaus documenting the interior and exterior spaces of its facilities and the activities of its community, as well as the creative output of its teachers and students. Her photographic aesthetic was that of the Neue Sachlichkeit (German: “New Objectivity”), which called for precise documentation from a straightforward perspective. At the same time, she collaborated with Moholy-Nagy in the darkroom, experimenting with image-making processes such as the photogram, an image created on photo-sensitive paper without a camera but by exposure to light. In contemporary publications that documented their experimentation, all credit was given to Moholy-Nagy, such as in the book Malerei, Photografie, Film (1925; Painting, Photography, Film), which was cowritten by the couple but published solely under Moholy-Nagy’s name. That lack of recognition became Moholy’s lifelong struggle.

In 1928 they both left the Bauhaus for Berlin, and the couple separated in 1929 (divorced 1934). That year Moholy was included in the landmark “Film und Foto” exhibition in Stuttgart, which featured an international roster of photographers working in the New Objectivity aesthetic (also called “New Vision” or “Precisionism”). From 1929 to 1933 she taught photography in Berlin at a private art school directed by Swiss artist and former Bauhaus teacher Johannes Itten. Thereafter she settled in London (1934), where she set up a commercial portraiture studio.

Moholy’s years of practicing photography had taught her valuable methods of photomechanical reproduction, which, during World War II, she used in her position with Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux to run a microfilm operation (the photographic copying of documents at a reduced scale for compact storage) at the London Science Museum Library. She also participated (c. 1946–57) in archival projects with UNESCO, where she employed several advanced reprography methods (photographic reproduction processes of graphic material). In the late 1930s she wrote a history of photography, A Hundred Years of Photography (1939), the first of its kind in English. Her contributions to the field of photography were recognized officially in 1948 when she was made a member of the Britain’s Royal Photographic Society. In 1959 she retired and moved to Switzerland, where she spent the rest of her life writing art criticism as well as a book on her work at the Bauhaus.

Moholy’s photographs of the Bauhaus from the 1920s served a critical function in constructing the identity of the school and its community and in establishing its reputation. The images were used in Bauhaus books, which she also edited, and they were used in the marketing materials and in the school’s sales catalogue. When she left Germany in 1933, she left her glass negatives with Gropius for safekeeping. He proceeded to use the images without crediting her, as in, for example, a 1938 exhibition on the Bauhaus organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Gropius provided nearly 50 of Moholy’s photographs to the museum, which used them either in the exhibition itself or in the accompanying catalogue, completely without credit. Though Moholy tried repeatedly to retrieve her original materials, she did not succeed in getting her hands on any of them until the 1960s, and even then only a limited number were returned. At that point she attempted retroactively, with some success, to lay claim to images that had been printed and used without her permission. That circumstance was a major impulse behind her publication of Moholy-Nagy Marginal Notes (1972), in which she tried to set the record straight about her collaboration in the groundbreaking photographic experimentation at the Bauhaus that had hitherto been credited to Moholy-Nagy alone.

Like many of the women involved in the male-dominated Bauhaus community, Moholy was largely left out of the school’s histories, though many of those were illustrated by her photographs. Her name has since been resuscitated and her role reexamined as central in shaping the Bauhaus image.

Naomi Blumberg

Lucia Moholy. Franz Roh


Straight Photography in Europe

The new vision invigorated straight photography by presenting the known world in uncharacteristic ways. Even though polemical messages may have been more difficult to convey than in montage, photographers found that they could express social and psychological attitudes and explore aesthetic ideas through a variety of visual initiatives. These included making use of actual reflections, unusual angles, and close-ups. Inspiration for many of these experiments in seeing can be traced to the avant-garde cinema, which, in the opinion of at least one photographer of the time, saved still photography from itself Reflections, which in former times had aided photographers in composing interior scenes and landscapes, now offered them a means to explore the expressive possibilities of industrially produced refractive surfaces such as plate glass and polished metals. The overlay of natural forms and geometric patterns reflected in the shop windows of Atget's images frequently evokes a dreamlike aura; in the hands of modernist photographers this stratagem served to con-found one's sense of space or to introduce seemingly un-related visual references. To select but a single example, in Frau G. Resting, 1930, German photographer Edmund Resting structured an image resonant with restlessness and ambiguity from the reflections in the auto-mobile windshield, the tense expression on his wife's face, and the tectonic elements of car and building.

Distorted reflections, effected by using special mirrors and lenses or by capturing objects refracted in spherical forms, provided a device that might serve to mimic the formal experiments of Cubist painters as well as to express disturbing personal or social realities. First seen in 1888, when Ducos du Hauron produced a series of experimental portraits, the distorted image was reintroduccd in the late 1920s by Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz, whose interest had been aroused initially as he photographed the bodies of swimmers refracted in a pool. In 1933, using a special mirror, he produced a series of nudes similar in treatment to the deformations of the human body that engrossed Picasso at the time. The potential of this technique in social or personal comment was explored by Polish photographers Marian and Witold Dederko whose work in the modernist vein is combined with old-fashioned gum printing techniques, while the distorted scene refracted in the polished headlamp of a car in The Fierce-Eyed Building (pi. no. tool, by American neo-Romantic Clarence John Laughlin, seems to signify the photographer's view of modern urban life as inhumane. Photographers especially influenced by Surrealism sought to express intuitive perceptions through found symbols as well as accidental reflections. In Optk Parable (pi no. 501), by Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, reflections in a shop window combine with the repetitive forms of a naively painted eye-glass sign, seen in reverse as if to intimate an all-seeing but perverse presence. Bravo's style, formed during the 1930s cultural renaissance in his native land, suggests a complex amalgam of sophisticated theories of the unconscious, elements of indigenous folk culture, and commitment to the humanist ideals of the Mexican revolution.

The influence of the "isms" of art culture—Cubism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Precisionism—are visible in the work of virtually all photographers of the new vision, but while most regarded these concepts as allowing them the freedom to fragment and restructure reality, some individuals actually included in their photographs the typical geometric furnishings of Constructivist and Cubist paintings. Cones, spheres, and overlapping transparent planes found their way into the work of European photographers Herbert Bayer and Walter Pererhans, both of the Bauhaus, as well as that of Funke, Florence Henri, and the American Paul Outerbridge. Henri's studies at the Bauhaus and with painter Fernand Leger may account for her preference for the mirrors and spheres that appear again and again in her abstract compositions and portraits; other Cubist photographers allowed themselves greater latitude the artifacts they assembled for Cubist-likc still lifes.

EDMUND RESTING. Frau G. Resting, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Francisco Museum of Modern Art; purchase, Mrs. Ferdinand C. Smith Fund.

LOUIS DUCOS DU HAURON. Self-Portrait, c. 1888.
Gelatin silver print. Societe Franchise de Photographie, Paris.

ANDRE KERTESZ. Distortion No. 4, 1933.
Gelatin silver print. Susan Harder Gallery, New York.


(b Budapest, 2 July 1894; d New York, 27 Sept 1985).

American photographer of Hungarian birth. As a young man he used to wander around Budapest and visit the Ethnographic Museum. At this time Bila Bartуk and Zуltan Kodely were rediscovering Hungarian folk music, and Hungarian poets and painters were looking at their ancient vernacular traditions for inspiration. Kertйsz, who started taking photographs at the age of 12, also tried to reflect these interests, both in his choice of countryside subjects and in the simplicity of his style. Self-taught, he often took his camera with him when he went to visit relatives in the small peasant towns of the Hungarian heartland, the puszta. He tried to go beyond mere recording of holiday memories, or of the idyllic relationship of the country people to nature; he rather sought out timeless and essential qualities in the ordinary day-to-day events that he saw around him.

CLARENCE JOHN LAUGHLIN. The Fierce-Eyed Building, 1938.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York.


(b Lake Charles, LA, 14 Aug 1905; d New Orleans, LA, 2 Jan 1985).

American photographer. He spent his early childhood on a plantation in Louisiana before moving to New Orleans in 1910. A self-taught photographer, he began photographing in 1935, influenced by Baudelaire and French Symbolist poets. Initially imitating the objective photography of contemporaries Paul Strand and Edward Weston, he came to believe in the pursuit of his own visions and by 1939 considered his life’s work begun. Laughlin photographed what he came to describe as ‘the third world of photography’, concentrating on the remnants of the ‘Old South’; he produced images of crumbling plantations, graveyards and shadowy figures, visual parallels to novels by such writers as William Faulkner and Carson McCullers. He posed veiled women to represent spirits bearing the weight of history and often used double exposure and contrasts of light and shadow to invest inanimate objects with fearful possibilities, or to increase illusionistic possibilities—as in In the Cage (1940), an image of a child behind a louvre-door, the shadows cast on him like bars of a cage. A work such as Moss Monster (1946) demonstrates his ability to turn natural phenomena into a Surrealist image.

MANUEL ALVAREZ BRAVO. Optic Parable, 1931.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of N. Carol Lipis.


(b Mexico City, 4 Feb 1902).

Mexican photographer. He studied painting and music at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1918. In 1922, after training as an office worker, he began to take an interest in photography, and in 1923 he met Hugo Brehme shortly before buying his first camera. In 1929, through his friendship with Tina Modotti, he got to know Diego Rivera. In 1930, when Modotti left Mexico, he provided illustrations for Francis Toor’s book Mexican Folkways. From 1930 to 1931 he was cameraman for Eisenstein’s film Viva Mexico. Subsequently he met Paul Strand and Cartier-Bresson and became friendly with Mexico’s leading painters and writers. In 1938 he met Andrй Breton, who was visiting Mexico and who was deeply impressed by the mysterious and suggestive nature of his photographs. Breton was keen to enlist him for the Surrealist cause and published some of his photographs in Minotaure.


FLORENCE HENRI. Abstract Composition, 1929.
Gelatin silver print.


(American, 1893-1982)

Born in New York City in 1893, Henri first studied music, then painting under Fernand Léger in Paris and photography at the Bauhaus under Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers during 1927 and 1928. After her studies, she moved to Paris where she set up a studio for portrait, fashion and advertising photography. Her work was included in many seminal exhibitions and publications of the late 1920s and early 1930s, contributing to the international language of photographic experimentation and abstraction referred to as the New Vision in Europe. Henri's photography demonstrates a mastery of portraiture and still-life, incorporating close-ups, reflections and montage in her repertory of techniques. Like other 'new photographers' of the time, she also made use of unusual viewpoints and her photographs reflect the influence of cubism, often using mirrors to produce pictures that are fragmented and spatially ambiguous.

In the same fashion, the emblems of Surrealism—endless vistas, melting clocks, and checkerboard patterns—appeared in photographs by Man Ray, the British theatrical portraitist Angus McBean, and the American theatrical and fashion photographer George Platt Lynes. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the straight photography of this time is the predominance of unconventional vantage points. This development was forecast in the work done in the second decade of this century bv American photographers Stieglitz, Coburn, Steichen, and Strand following their exposure to modern European an exhibited at 291, The Armory Show, and the Modern Gallery. Indeed, the downward view and the rigorous organization of all the tectonic elements in Stieglitz's 1907 image The Steerage resulted in a complex formal structure that is said to have impelled Picasso later to remark that the two artists were working in the same avantgarde spirit. Fresh points of view, unhackneyed themes, geometry, and sharp definition were heralded by Coburn, who observed that photographers "need throw off the shackles of conventional expression." His image The Octopus of 1913 is a flattened arrangement of planes and arcs achieved by photographing downward from a position high over Madison Square Park in New York City. Three years later, Coburn's involvement in Vorticism, the English variant of Cubism, led him to photograph through a kaleidoscope-like device consisting of three mirrors; these completely abstract formations were dubbed Vortographs by Wyndham Lewis, the British leader of the movement. Around 1916, Strand created a series of near-abstractions using ordinary household objects. Exemplified by Orange and Bowls, these images concentrated on form, movement, and tonality rather than on naturalistic depiction or atmospheric lighting. Although abstraction as such did not interest him for long, Strand's utilization of unconventional angles and his high regard for pictorial structure also can be seen in the downward views of New York streets and the close-ups of anonymous street people and of machine and organic forms with which he was preoccupied until the end of the 1920s. No Americans besides Coburn and Strand went quite so far in experimenting with abstraction before the twenties, but some, including Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, Morton L. Schamberg, Steichen, Karl Struss, and Paul Lewis Anderson showed themselves exceptionally sensitive to geometric elements as they appeared in reality and to formal structure in their images.

The fact that mundane scenes and ordinary objects could be revealed in a fresh light made the unconventional vantage point a favorite of those associated with Construc¬tivism and the Bauhaus precisely because these groups were dedicated to viewing everyday society in new ways. Pont Transbordeur, a view by Bayer from a bridge looking down on the streets of Marseilles, typifies the many images of the time in which the visual field is transformed into a relatively flat pattern—one that retains just enough suggestion of depth and texture to be ambiguous. Besides unusual camera angle, the abstract orchestration of tonality, seen in Castle Staircase by Czech photographer Jan Lauschmann, can produce a work that is spatially baffling but visually authoritative. Lauschmann, a photochemist by profession, was one of the first in his country to conclude that photography should be an independent branch of art, and that straight printing was more relevant to modern concerns than the hand-manipulated gum printing techniques that lingered in Eastern Europe until the 1930s.

In another example of the downward view that is arresting from several positions-—Carrefour, Blois by Kertesz—the puzzling configuration of lines and shapes of architectural elements seen from above serve as a foil for the animate forms, resulting in a refreshing vision of a scene that had been more commonly photographed from street level. Neither a Pictorialist nor yet an entirely objective photographer, Kertesz supported himself as a free-lance journalist soon after moving to Paris from his native Hungary in 1925; using the newly invented Leica camera he embraced the new vision as a means to extract lyrical moments from the ordinariness of daily existence. While he utilized virtually the entire vocabulary of modernism—reflections, close-ups, and unusual vantage points—his images seem to project wit, human compassion, and poetry rather than a concern with formal problems or didactic ideas.

The view from above made possible the ambiguous reading of shadow and substance visible in a work of 1929 entitled Little Men, Long Shadows by Vilho Setala, a skillful Finnish professional photographer whose visual interplay of figures and shadows suggests a typically urban experience of anonymity and mechanized existence. At times the relationship between shadow and substance in photographs taken from this viewpoint is so tenuous that the images can be viewed from any angle with equal comprehension. As a result of increased attention to camera angle, a portrait of Clemens Roseler by T. Lux Feininger, who was involved with the theater and dance program at the Bauhaus, is imbued with tension and fresh interest through the extreme foreshortening.

ALVIN LANGDON COBURN. Vortograph No. 1,1917.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn.


Paul Strand (October 16, 1890 – March 31, 1976) was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. His diverse body of work, spanning six decades, covers numerous genres and subjects throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa.
Born in New York City to Bohemian parents, in his late teens Strand was a student of renowned documentary photographer Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. It was while on a fieldtrip in this class that Strand first visited the 291 art gallery – operated by Stieglitz and Edward Steichen – where exhibitions of work by forward-thinking modernist photographers and painters would move Strand to take his photographic hobby more seriously. Stieglitz would later promote Strand's work in the 291 gallery itself, in his photography publication Camera Work, and in his artwork in the Hieninglatzing studio. Some of this early work, like the well-known "Wall Street," experimented with formal abstractions (influencing, among others, Edward Hopper and his idiosyncratic urban vision). Other of Strand's works reflect his interest in using the camera as a tool for social reform.

Over the next few decades, Strand worked in motion pictures as well as still photography. His first film was Manhatta (1921), also known as New York the Magnificent, a silent film showing the day-to-day life of New York City made with painter/photographer Charles Sheeler. Manhatta includes a shot similar to Strand's famous Wall Street (1915) photograph. Other films he was involved with included Redes (1936) (released in the US as The Wave), a film commissioned by the Mexican government, the documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and the pro-union, anti-fascist Native Land (1942).

In June 1949, Strand left the United States to present Native Land at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Czechoslovakia. It was a departure that marked the beginning of Strand’s long exile from the prevailing climate of McCarthyism in the United States. The remaining 27 years of his life were spent in Orgeval, France where, despite never learning the language, he maintained an impressive creative life, assisted by his third wife, fellow photographer Hazel Kingsbury Strand.
Although Strand is best known for his early abstractions, his return to still photography in this later period produced some of his most significant work in the form of six book ‘portraits’ of place: Time in New England (1950), La France de Profil (1952), Un Paese (featuring photographs of Luzzara and the Po River Valley in Italy, 1955), Tir a'Mhurain / Outer Hebrides (1962), Living Egypt (1969) and Ghana: an African portrait (1976).
Strand married the painter Rebecca Salsbury in 1921. He photographed Rebecca Salsbury Strand frequently, sometimes with uncommonly close compositions. Strand married Hazel Kingsbury in 1951.

The timing of Strand’s departure to France is coincident with the first libel trial of his friend Alger Hiss, with whom he maintained a correspondence until his death. Although he was never officially a member of the Communist Party, many of Strand’s collaborators were either Party members (James Aldridge; Cesare Zavattini) or were prominent socialist writers and activists (Basil Davidson). Many of his friends were also Communists or were suspected of being so (MP DN Pritt; film director Joseph Losey; Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid; actor Alex McCrindle). Strand was also closely involved with Frontier Films, one of more than twenty organizations that were branded as ‘subversive’ and ‘un-American’ by the US Attorney General.

Strand also insisted that his books should be printed in Leipzig, East Germany, even if this meant that they were initially prohibited from the American market on account of their Communist provenance. De-classified intelligence files, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and now lodged at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, reveal that Strand’s movements around Europe were closely monitored by the security services.

Paul Strand


HERBERT BAYER. Pont Transbordeur, over Marseilles, 1928.
Gelatin silver print.


JAN LAUSCHMANN. Castle Staircase, 1927.
Gelatin silver print.

ANDRE KERTESZ. Satiric Dancer, Paris, 1926.
Gelatin silver print. Susan Harder Gallery, New York.

ANDRE KERTESZ. Carrefour Blois, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Susan Harder Gallery, New York.

VILHO SETALA. Little Men, Long Shadows, 1929.
Gelatin silver print. Photographic Museum of Finland, Helsinki.

T. LUX FEININGER. Clemens Roseler, c. 1920s.
Gelatin silver print. Prakapas Gallery, Bronxville, N.Y.

Another hallmark of the new vision is the closeup, a view in which the lens acts like an enlarging device to call attention to patterns, textures, and structures that might ordinarily pass unnoticed. Reflecting in part the advances in scientific photography during the 20th century, the close-up was regarded as one means for "the objective presentation of fact," which frees the viewer from the confusion of individual representation. This concentration on discrete objects also signified that to some photographers the camera seemed to be more suitable for revealing specific appearances than for depicting complex psychological or social relationships. The close-up recommended itself strongly to German partisans of the New Objectivity, among them professor of art Karl Blossfeldt who sought through his images of plant forms to establish a link between form in a natural world "governed by some fixed and eternal force" and in art.

The New Objectivity's most renowned advocate, Albert Ronger-Patzsch, a professional photographer in Germany. also sought to make his lens reveal analogies between natural formations and factory-produced objects, in order to suggest the formal structures that are basic to plants, bridges, factories and their products. Focusing his large-format camera on intrinsic design elements and searching out repetitive pattern, he eliminated atmosphere, chance-illuminations, and all personal subjective reactions to achieve a transcendental level of pure decoration in images such as Sempervivum Percarneum, 1922. At times his work seemed to approach abstraction despite his expressed "aloofness to art for art's sake." A similar attentive-ness to the clarity of line and form characterizes Werner Mantz's views of German modern architecture of the 1920s and '30s, while Hans Finsler, Swiss-born but influential as a teacher and professional in Germany, used the camera to make vivid the precise geometries of mass-produced machined objects.

The camera close-up, especially as it served the ideals of the New Objectivity, garnered international adherents owing to the acclaim outside Germany for Blossfeldt's Unformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature), published in 1928, and Renger-Patzsch's Die Welt Ist Schon (The World Is Beautiful)—the latter considered by the photographer "a model book of objects and things." The style and its typical themes informed the work of many other Europeans, including French photographer Emmanuel Sougez and Dutch photographer Piet Zwart, whose robust image of a cabbage can be compared with a similar image by Czech photographer Ladislav Berka.While the close-up opened a fresh way of viewing that most commonplace of subjects—the human face and form—it did not prevent the photographer from introducing personal feelings. Indeed, Rodchenko's Portrait of My Mother, reveals the shape, texture, and forms of aging, and also expresses a tender though unsentimental compassion. Tonal contrast, outsize scale, and asymmetrical placement in Lucia Moholy's Portrait of Florence Henri strikingly exemplify die formalistic concerns of the photographer yet suggest the essence of the sitter's personality. Eye of Lotte, by the influential German teacher Max Burchartz, a work that undoubtedly was considered the "leitmotif for the modern photography movement," because it so fully embraces the stylistic devices of the era—the close-up, unusual framing, emphatic geometrical design—at the same time projecting the innocence and freshness of youth. As seen in Child's Hands by German photographer Aenne Biermann and the image of work-hardened hands by Italian photographer Tina Modotti, the close-up view obviously can be imbued with either personal or social comment.


Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932) was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher, and artist who worked in Berlin, Germany, at the turn of the century. He worked with a camera he designed himself. That camera allowed him to greatly magnify the objects he was capturing, to up to 30 times their actual size. He spent much of his time devoted to the study of nature. In his career of more than 30 years, he photographed nothing but plants, or rather, sections of plants. In many of his photographs, he would zoom in so close to a plant that the plant no longer looked like a plant. The images he created looked more like lovely, abstract forms. His photos revealed the amazing detail found in nature.
When Karl Blossfeldt began his career, photography was still quite new. Many people saw it as a scientific tool. They looked at it as an infallible means of capturing the world. Many people did not look at photography as an art form yet. Blossfeldt's work can be seen as a transition between looking at photography as just science and looking at photography as art.

Blossfeldt was born in Schielo, the Unterharz region of Germany. He attended high school in the nearby village of Harzgerode and graduated with a secondary school certificate. He started as a sculpture and modelling apprentice at the iron foundry in Mägdesprung by the Harz mountains. Between 1884 and 1890, he took music and drawing classes at the Lehranstalt des Königlich Preussischen Kunstgewerbemuseums (The Royal Institute of Arts and Crafts), in Berlin thanks to a fellowship granted by the Prussian government.
Over the next decade, Blossfeldt traveled around Italy, Greece, and North Africa, where he started collecting plant material for drawing classes and systematically documented single plant samples with photographs under the tutelage of Moritz Meurer, who published some of the young photographer’s work. In 1898, Blossfeldt joined the Kunstgewerbliche Lehranstalt, teaching modelling based on plant samples and his own photographs as class material. He held this position for 31 years.

His works focused on the beauty of nature. He chose to use the organic forms of the earth to contrast against stark backgrounds so that the shapes he created focused on the small detail of nature, making it the main focus of the image and to show these natural compositions on scales as small as ornamental ironwork and as large as the shapes of entire buildings.
In 1912, he married Helene Wegener, an opera singer. She was his second wife. Together they traveled around southern Europe and northern Africa. In 1921, he was appointed Hochschule für bildende Künste professor at the Institute in Berlin.

Blossfeldt's botanical photographs, which Meurer had used as teaching material in his drawing manual, were first exhibited at Berlin's Gallery Nierendorf in 1926 and were published in several illustrated magazines and books on architecture and design theory. The 1928 publication of Urformen der Kunst (Archetypes of Art), a stunning collection of extreme closeup photos of plants, earned Blossfeldt a place as a pioneer in the New Objectivity art movement. The book received enthusiastic responses from both literary circles and the general public.
His success was followed by another exhibition at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1929, and a series of botanical photographs were published in Documents to illustrate Georges Bataille's article "The Language of Flowers" (1929, issue 3). Blossfeldt retired from teaching to emeritus status at the college in 1930.

His Second Series of Art Forms in Nature were published in Wundergarten der Natur (Magical Garden of Nature), which was published in the year he died, 1932. Blossfeldt's lifespan mirrors almost exactly that of the objective photographer Wilson Bentley (1865–1931), from the U.S. state of Vermont, whose work focused on photographically recording snowflakes and ice crystals.

Karl Blossfeldt

ALBERT RENGER-PATZSCH. Semperrivum Percarneum, c. 1922.
Gelatin silver print. Folkwang Museum. Essen. Germany.


Albert Renger-Patzsch (June 22, 1897 – September 27, 1966) was a German photographer associated with the New Objectivity.

Renger-Patzsch was born in Würzburg and began making photographs by age twelve. After military service in the First World War he studied chemistry at Dresden Technical College. In the early 1920s he worked as a press photographer for the Chicago Tribune before becoming a freelancer and, in 1925, publishing a book, The choir stalls of Cappenberg. He had his first museum exhibition in 1927.
A second book followed in 1928, Die Welt ist schön (The World is Beautiful). This, his best-known book, is a collection of one hundred of his photographs in which natural forms, industrial subjects and mass-produced objects are presented with the clarity of scientific illustrations. In its sharply focused and matter-of-fact style his work exemplifies the esthetic of The New Objectivity that flourished in the arts in Germany during the Weimar Republic.
During the 1930s Renger-Patzsch made photographs for industry and advertising. His archives were destroyed during the Second World War. In 1944 he moved to Wamel Dorf, where he lived the rest of his life.


PIET ZWART. Cabbage, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands.

ALEXANDER RODCHENKO. Portrait of My Mother, 1924.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Alexander Lavrientiev, Moscow


Lucia Moholy, born Lucia Schulz, (18 January 1894, Prague, Austria-Hungary — 17 May 1989, Zurich, Switzerland) was a photographer and wife of artist and fellow photographer László Moholy-Nagy.
After studying philosophy, philology, and art history, she worked as an editor and lecturer in Prague. She met and married László Moholy-Nagy in 1920 in Berlin. She studied photography in Weimar and Leipzig from 1923 to 1924 and, when her husband secured a position at the Bauhaus, lived in Dessau and produced many of the iconic images and portraits associated with that school. In 1928, she and her husband moved to Berlin where she worked at the Ittenschule as a stage photographer and lecturer.

The couple separated in 1932 and emigrated, separately, to London when the National Socialist German Workers Party rose to power in 1933. There, she continued to photograph and teach, publishing a book, A Hundred Years of Photography, 1839-1939 (Harmondsworth, 1939) and directing a microfilm/reprography service based at the Science Museum Library, London, for the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (Aslib), "The ASLIB microfilm service: the story of its wartime activities", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 2 No.3, pp.147-73). Immediately after the war she travelled to the Near and Middle East for projects for UNESCO. She retired in 1959 to Zollikon, Switzerland.

Lucia Moholy


AENNE BIERMANN. Child's Hands, 1929.
Gelatin silver print. Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulrurbesitz, Berlin.


TINA MODOTTI. Number 21 (Hands Retting an a Tool).
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Tina Modotti (August 16 (or 17) 1896 – January 5, 1942) was an Italian photographer, model, actress, and revolutionary political activist.

She was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Friuli. In 1913, at the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States to join her father in San Francisco.
Attracted to the performing arts supported by the Italian emigre community in the Bay Area, Modotti experimented with acting. She appeared in several plays, operas and silent movies in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and also worked as an artist's model.
In 1918, she married Roubaix "Robo" de l'Abrie Richey and moved with him to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in the motion picture industry. There she met the photographer Edward Weston and his assistant Margrethe Mather. By 1921, Modotti was Weston's favorite model and, by October of that year, his lover. Modotti's husband Robo seems to have responded to this by moving to Mexico in 1921. Following him to Mexico City, Modotti arrived two days after his death from smallpox on February 9, 1922. In 1923, Modotti returned to Mexico City with Weston and his son Chandler, leaving behind Weston's wife and remaining three children.

Edward Weston's 1923 portrait of Tina ModottiModotti and Weston quickly gravitated toward the capital's bohemian scene, and used their connections to create an expanding portrait business. It was also during this time that Modotti met several political radicals and Communists, including three Mexican Communist Party leaders who would all eventually become romantically linked with Modotti: Xavier Guerrero, Julio Antonio Mella, and Vittorio Vidali.
By 1927, a much more politically active Modotti (she joined the Mexican Communist Party that year) found her focus shifting and more of her work becoming politically motivated. Around that period, her photographs began appearing in publications such as Mexican Folkways, Forma, and the more radically motivated El Machete, Arbiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ), and New Masses.
Some have suggested that Modotti was introduced to photography as a young girl in Italy, where her uncle, Pietro Modotti, maintained a photography studio. Later in the U.S., her father briefly ran a similar studio in San Francisco. However, it was through her relationship with Edward Weston that Modotti rapidly developed as an important fine art photographer and documentarian. Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo divided Modotti’s career as a photographer into two distinct categories: "Romantic" and "Revolutionary." The former period includes her time spent as Weston’s darkroom assistant, office manager and, finally, creative partner. Together they opened a portrait studio in Mexico City and were commissioned to travel around Mexico taking photographs for Anita Brenner’s book, "Idols Behind Altars."

In Mexico, Modotti found a community of cultural and political avant guardists. She became the photographer of choice for the blossoming Mexican mural movement, documenting the works of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Her visual vocabulary matured during this period, such as her formal experiments with architectural interiors, flowers and urban landscapes, and especially in her many lyrical images of peasants and workers. Indeed, her one-woman retrospective exhibition at the National Library in December 1929 was advertised as "The First Revolutionary Photographic Exhibition In Mexico." She had reached a high point in her career as a photographer, but within the next year she was forced to set her camera aside in favor of more pressing concerns.

During this same period, economic and political contradictions within Mexico and indeed much of Central and South America were intensifying and this included increased repression of political dissidents. On January 10, 1929, Modotti's comrade and companion Julio Antonio Mella was assassinated, ostensibly by agents of the Cuban government. Shortly thereafter an attempt was made on the Mexican President Pascual Ortiz Rubio. Modotti — who was a target of both the Mexican and Italian political police — was questioned about both crimes amidst a concerted anti-communist, anti-immigrant press campaign, which depicted "the fierce and bloody Tina Modotti" as the perpetrator. (A Catholic zealot, Daniel Luis Flores, was later charged with shooting Rubio. José Magriñat was arrested for Mella's murder.)
As a result of the anti-communist campaign by the Mexican government, Modotti was expelled from Mexico in February, 1930, and placed under guard on a ship bound for Rotterdam. The Italian government made concerted efforts to extradite her as a subversive national, but with the assistance of International Red Aid activists, she evaded detention by the fascist police. Traveling on a restricted visa that mandated her final destination as Italy, Modotti initially stopped in Berlin and from there visited Switzerland. She apparently intended to make her way into Italy and to join the anti-fascist resistance there. However, in response to the deteriorating political situation in Germany and her own exhausted resources, she followed the advice of Vittorio Vidali and moved to Moscow in 1931.

During the next few years she engaged in various missions on behalf of the International Workers' Relief organizations and the Comintern in Europe. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, Vidali (then known as "Comandante Carlos") and Modotti (using the pseudonym "Maria") left Moscow for Spain, where they stayed and worked until 1939. She worked with the famed Canadian Dr. Norman Bethune (who would later invent the mobile blood unit) during the disastrous retreat from Málaga in 1937. In April 1939, following the collapse of the Republican movement in Spain, Modotti left Spain with Vidali and returned to Mexico under a pseudonym.
Modotti died from heart failure in Mexico City in 1942 under what is viewed by some as suspicious circumstances. After hearing about her death, Diego Rivera suggested that Vidali had orchestrated it. Modotti may have 'known too much' about Vidali's activities in Spain, which included a rumoured 400 executions. Her grave is located within the vast Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City.

Tina Modotti


The New Vision in Japan

Japanese photographers were attracted to the new vision as a result of the curiosity about Western ideas in general that surfaced during the so-called "Taisho democracy" of the 1920s. Access to articles, exhibitions, and reproductions of camera images from Europe led to the expansion of photographic activity beyond the previously limited areas of portraiture and genre scenes and brought about an invigorating diversity of stylistic and thematic directions. While a late-blooming pictorialism continued to evoke a "redundancy of misty scenes and blurry figures," many more photographers, who were engaged in documentation and portraiture or in exploring new approaches to still life and the nude, embraced the entire vocabulary of the "new photography," as it was called in Japan as well as in the West. Urged to "recognize the mechanistic nature of the medium," photographers began to use sharper lenses and to experiment with close-ups, montage, and solarization, producing during the 1930s works clearly influenced by Surrealism and the New Objectivity. Images such as Hosokawa Cbikako, a portrait by Kozo Nojima reminiscent of the Burchartz image mentioned earlier, or the emphatically geometric Ochanomizu Station, 1933, by Yoshio Watanabe, were instrumental in bringing Japanese photography into the modern era.

GINGO HANAWA. Concept of Machinery of the Creator, 1931.

KOZO NOJIMA. Hosokawa Chikako, 1932.
Gelatin silver print.

YOSHIO WATANABE. Ochanomizu Station, 1933.
Gelatin silver print.

The New Vision in the United States: Precisionism

Within limits, the new vision attracted all significant photographers in the United States in the 1920s, many of whom accepted the idea that "absolute unqualified objectivity" constituted the unique property of the camera image. Whether depicting nature, person, artifact, machinery, or architecture, American photographers emphasized the material properties of the real world even as they sought to embrace modern aesthetic ideas, an attitude they shared with the Precisionist painters of the period.

Of the older generation, neither Steichen nor Stieglitz with their roots in Pictorialism, adhered strictly to the vocabulary of the New Objectivity, though both incorporated elements of the style with brilliant results. Steichen's preference for sharper definition and his interest in compositional theory in the postwar years is owed in part to his experiences in an aerial photography unit during the first World War. In 1923, a unique opportunity to become chief photographer for Conde Nast publications enabled him to fuse his extensive experience and intuitive decorative flair in a practical enterprise to be discussed in Chapter 10. As for Stieglitz, his consistent belief in the primacy of subjective feeling underlay the stylistic devices he chose to incorporate into his imagery, as the close-ups of O'Keeffe, the abstraction of the Equivalents, and the assertive geometry of the late New York scenes all affirm.

As the first World War was ending, Strand (whose role was discussed earlier) and Precisionist painter-photographers Schamberg and Sheeler emerged as the flag-bearers of the new approach. Schamberg, probably the first American to incorporate abstract machine forms in painting, used the camera for portraiture and to create complex Cubist-like juxtapositions of geometric shapes in the few urban landscapes he made before his untimely death in 1918. In early images of rural architecture, Sheeler, who began in 1912 to sustain his painting activity with commercial architectural photography, sought out the clarity of simple geometric relationships. He collaborated in 1920 with Strand on Manhatta, a short expressive film about New York City based on portions of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and, following a stint in advertising and publicity photography, landed a coveted commission in 1927 to photograph the nation's largest automotive plant— the Ford Motor Works at River Rouge. Though Sheeler often exhibited paintings and photographs together and his work was included in the prestigious German Film Und Foto (Fifo) exhibition in 1929, a growing am-bivalence about the creative nature of photography eventually caused him to regard the camera as a tool for making studies, as in the untitled arrangement of stacks and funnels that he transformed into the lucid oil Upper Deck.

The Clarence White School of Photography proved to be a fountainhead of modernist ideas despite the Pictorialist outlook of its director, perhaps because in pursuing its goal of training photographers for jobs in advertising and publicity it needed to stress modern design. The successful transformation of the vocabulary of the new vision into a style of both personal expressiveness and commercial utility is visible in the work of a number of illustrious-students, notably Ralph Steiner, Outerbridge, Gilpin, Bruehl, and Bourke-White. At the outset of Steiner's long career in professional photography and documentary film, he produced Typewriter Keys, a close-up that in its angled view and insistent pattern predates the appearance of this approach in Europe. This image—later used in an advertising campaign for a paper company—was a harbinger of the facility with which Steiner handled the modernist idiom in both commercial and personal work. Outer-bridge's restrained treatment of city architecture and machined objects is exemplified in Marmon Crankshaft, a work inspired by the scries of machine images made by Strand in 1921. After a brief period in attendance at the White School, GUpin returned to her native Southwest to open a commercial portrait studio. Her handling of local architectural and landscape themes during the 1920s reveals an interest in abstract geometrical pattern still visible in the stark design of the much later Church of San Lorenzo, Picuris, New Mexico.

That the aesthetics of the "new vision" also informed the early work of photographers who eventually chose odier paths can be seen in the work of Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans, both of whom were in Europe during the cultural ferment of the 1920s. The high vantage point and spatial ambiguity in Abbott's view from the elevated tracks above Lincoln Square is reminiscent of the handling of such views by European Bauhaus followers, but the image itself suggests the staccato rhythms of New York. Similarly, Evans, whose brief sojourn in Europe occurred before his commitment to photography, imbued the striking geometric pattern of Wall and Windows with an emphatic tonal contrast that brings to mind the rude energy of the American urban scene.

CHARLES SHEELER. Untitled, c. 1927.
Gelatin silver print. Gilman Paper Company, New York.

CHARLES SHEELER. Upper Deck, 1929.
Oil on canvas. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Louise E. Bettens Fund.

PAUL OUTERBRIDGE. Mormon Crankshaft, 1923.
Platinum print. Art Institute of Chicago; Julicn Levy Collection.


Paul Outerbridge, Jr. (1896–1958) was an American photographer noted for early use and experiments in color photography. Outerbridge was a fashion and commercial photographer, an early pioneer and teacher of color photography, and an artist who created erotic nudes photographs that could not be exibited in his lifetime. Outerbridge, while still in his teens, worked as an illustrator and theatrical designer designing stage settings and lighting schemes. After an accident caused his discharge from the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, in 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Army where he did his first photography work. In 1921, Outerbridge enrolled in the Clarence H. White school of photography at Columbia University. Within a year his work began being reproduced in Vanity Fair and Vogue magazine. In London, in 1925, the Royal Photographic Society invited Outerbridge to exhibit in a one-man show. Outerbridge then traveled to Paris and became friends with surrealist artists, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Berenice Abbott. In Paris, Outerbridge did a layout for the French Vogue magazine, met and worked with Edward Steichen, and built the largest, most completely equipped advertising photography studio of the times. In 1929, 12 of Outerbridge's photographs were included in the prestigious, German Film und Foto exhibition. Returning to New York in 1929, Outerbridge opened a studio doing commercial and artistic work and began writing a monthly column on color photography for the U.S. Camera Magazine. Outerbridge worked in tri-color carbro process. In 1937, Outerbridge's photographs were included in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and, in 1940, Outerbridge published his seminal book, Photographing in Color, using high quality illustrations to explain his techniques. A scandal over his shocking, full-color erotic nude photography, led to Outerbridge retiring as a commercial photographer and moving to Hollywood in 1943, although he continued to contribute photo stories to magazines and write his monthly column. In 1945, Outerbridge married fashion designer Lois Weir and worked in their joint fashion company, Lois-Paul Originals. One year after his death, Smithsonian Institution staged a one-man show of Outerbridge's photographs in 1959. Although his reputation has faded, revivals of Outerbridge's photography in 1970s and 1990s has periodically brought him into contemporary public knowledge.

BERENICE ABBOTT. James Joyce, 1928.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stephen R. Currier Memorial Fund. .

LAURA GILPIN. Church of San Lorenzo, Picuris, New Mexico, 1963.
Gelatin silver print. Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal.

BERENICE ABBOTT. El at Columbus and Broadway, New York, 1929.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago.

WALKER EVANS. Wall and Windows, c. 1929.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago.

Precisionist Photographers: The West Coast

The Americanization of the New Objectivity reached its height in the work of West Coast photographers. Through personal contact, as well as articles and reproductions in European and American periodicals, Johan Hagemeyer, Edward Weston (see Profile), Margrcthe Mather, Imogen Cunningham, and Ansel Adams became aware of the new photographic vision. Hagemeyer, a former horticulturist and close friend of Weston, was the first to bring the anti-Pictorialist message back from the East in 1916, but despite his newfound preference for contemporary themes and high vantage points, a dreamy romanticism continued to pervade his imagery. Weston's attempts to slough off the soft-focus style that had gained him national renown were more successful. In a 1922 image of the American Rolling Mill (Armco) works made in the course of a trip east, he handled the industrial theme with sharp definition and singular sensitivity to the dramatic character of stacks and conveyors. Weston described the object-oriented images on which he concentrated in the late 1920s as revealing "the very sub-stance and quintessence of the thing itself." At times, such intense concentration on form virtually transmuted the object into an abstraction, as in Eroded Plank from Barky Sifter.

Mather, until 1922 Weston's associate in his California studio, transformed the misty orientalism of her early work into a style marked by sharply defined close-ups and emphasis on pattern, which reveal her stylish flair. After Cunningham established contact with Weston and saw European examples of the "new vision" in the 1920s, her earlier penchant for fuzzy allegorical figures cavorting on wooded slopes was replaced by an interest in close-ups of plant forms and other organisms. Her clean, stark views of industrial structures can be considered, along with Weston's, paradigms of the Precisionist style. Beginning around 1927, Brett Weston, following in his father's footsteps, also showed himself intensely concerned with form and texture in images of nature.

A deep respect for the grandeur of the landscape of the American West combined with the active promotion of the straight photograph brought world renown to Ansel Adams. Involved with the medium throughout the 1920s, though not completely convinced of its transcendental possibilities until about 1930, Adams took an approach to his chosen theme—large-scale nature in all its pristine purity—that is similar in its emphasis on form and texture to that of other Precisionist photographers. His work also embodies a scientific control of exposure, developing, and printing. Adams's special gifts are visible in the incisive translation of scale, detail, and texture into an organic design seen in the early Frozen Lake and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada.

In 1930, the "f/64" group, informally established in San Francisco, promoted Precisionism through its advocacy of the large-format view camera, small lens aperture (hence the name), and printing by contact rather than enlarging. Besides Adams, Cunningham, and Weston, its members included Consuelo Kanaga and Willard Van Dyke—the latter a guiding light in the group's activities who went on to renown as a documentary filmmaker. Ironically, optimistic celebration of technology, which is exemplified in the crisp forms of Alma Lavenson's starkly geometric
Calaveras Dam II  and Van Dyke's Funnels, was about to be supplanted by a different sensibility as the onset of the Great Depression altered general perceptions about the wonders of industrialism.

JOHAN HAGEMEYER. Modem American Lyric (Gasoline Station), 1924.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago.

EDWARD WESTON. Eroded Plank from Barley Sifter, 1931.
Gelatin silver print.


Edward Weston was born in 1886 in Highland Park, Illinois. When he was sixteen years old his father gave him a Kodak Bulls-Eye #2 camera and he began to photograph at his aunt's farm and in Chicago parks. In 1903 Weston first had his photographs exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute. Soon after the San Francisco earthquake and fire on April 19, 1906, Weston came to California to work as a surveyor for San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. For a short while Weston returned to Chicago and attended the Illinois College of Photography, but came back to California to live in 1908 where he became a founding member of the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. He married Flora Chandler in 1909 and they soon gave birth to two sons: Edward Chandler Weston, in 1910 and Theodore Brett Weston in 1911. Weston had his own portrait studio in Tropico, California and also began to have articles published in magazines such as American Photography, Photo Era and Photo-Miniature where his article entitled "Weston's Methods" on unconventional portraiture appeared in September, 1917. Weston's third son, Laurence Neil Weston, was born in 1916 and his fourth, Cole Weston, in 1919. Soon after Weston met Tina Modotti which marked the starting point of their long relationship, photographic collaborations in Mexico and later much publicized love affair. Modotti's husband, a political radical in Mexico, died in 1922. That same year Weston traveled to Ohio to visit his sister and there took photographs of the Armco Steel Plant. From Ohio he went to New York and met Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler and Georgia O'Keefe. At this time Weston renounced Pictorialism and began a period of transition, self-analysis and self-discipline while making voyages to Mexico, often with Modotti and one of his sons. Some of the photographs that he and Modotti made in Mexico were published in Anita Brenner's book Idols Behind Altars. Weston began photographing shells, vegetables and nudes in 1927. Weston kept very detailed journals or "Day Books" of his daily activities, thoughts, ideas and conversations. His first publication of these writings "From My Day Book" appeared in 1928 - others were published after his death. Two years later he had his first New York exhibit at Alma Reed's Delphic Studios Gallery and later exhibited at Harvard Society of Contemporary Arts with Walker Evans, Eugene Atget, Sheeler, Stieglitz, Modotti and others. Weston was a Charter member of the "Group f/64" that was started in 1932 and included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Consuelo Kanaga and others. They chose this optical term because they habitually set their lenses to that aperture to secure maximum image sharpness of both foreground and distance. Weston went even further toward photographic purity in 1934 when he resolved to make only unretouched portraits. Even though several large exhibitions followed, he was still of modest means and in 1935 initiated the "Edward Weston Print of the Month Club" offering photographs at $10 each. In 1937 he was the first photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship taking his assistant Charis Wilson along on his travels whom he married the next year. In 1940 the book California and the West was published with text by Charis and photographs by Edward. The same year he participated in the U.S. Camera Yosemite Photographic Forum with Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lange. In 1941 he was commissioned by Limited Editions Club to illustrate a new edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Weston started experiencing symptoms of Parkinson's disease in 1946 and in 1948 made his last photographs at Point Lobos. In 1952 his Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio was published with his images printed by Brett. In 1955 Weston selected several of what he called "Project Prints" and began having Brett, Cole and Dody Warren print them under his supervision. Lou Stoumen released his film The Naked Eye in 1956 of which he used several of Weston's print as well as footage of Weston himself. Edward Weston died at home on January 1, 1958.

MARGRETHE MATHER. Billy Justema in Man's Summer Kimono, c. 1923.
Gelatin silver print. Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; Courtesv William Justema.

Margrethe Mather

Margrethe Mather (b. Emma Caroline Youngren March 4, 1886 - d. December 25, 1952) was a photographer and painter who worked in transforming photography to a modern art, exploring form and light. In her youth she worked as a prostitute.

Mather is commonly connected with Edward Weston. They were collaborators on many photographs and were close companions. His fame tends to overshadow Mather's considerable work from the period of collaboration and afterwards. Mather and Weston met in 1913 and worked together until he departed for Mexico in 1923 with Tina Modotti. Her work, both alone and in collaboration with Weston, set the tone for the shift from pictorialism (softly focused images giving the photograph a romantic quality) to modernity (exploration in form and light). The work tended to be more experimental and simple than many others from the period.
In the 1930's she did work for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, in which she took simple objects like combs and fans then arranged them in repetitive patterns.
Mather found a dear friend and model in a young man named William Justema, who would write a memoir about her after her death. Mather's last piece of substantial work was in the early 1930s for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. She arranged objects such as seashells, chains and combs in repetitive patterns to be used as prototypes for fabric designs.

Gelatin silver print.


Imogen Cunningham (April 12, 1883 - June 24, 1976) was an American photographer known for her photography of botanicals, nudes and industry.
Cunningham was born in Portland, Oregon. In 1901, at the age of 18, Cunningham bought her first camera, a 4x5 inch view camera, from the American School of Art in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She soon lost interest and sold the camera to a friend. It wasn’t until 1906, while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, that she was inspired by an encounter with the work of Gertrude Kasebier to take up photography again. With the help of her chemistry professor, Dr. Horace Byers, she began to study the chemistry behind photography; she subsidized her tuition by photographing plants for the botany department.

After graduating in 1907 she went to work with Edward S. Curtis in his Seattle studio. This gave Cunningham the valuable opportunity to learn about the portrait business and the practical side of photography.
In 1909, Cunningham won a scholarship from her sorority (Pi Beta Phi) for foreign study and, on advice from her chemistry professor, applied to study with Professor Robert Luther at the Technische Hochshule in Dresden, Germany.
In Dresden she concentrated on her studies and didn’t take many photos. In May 1910 she finished her paper, “About the Direct Development of Platinum Paper for Brown Tones”, describing her process to increase printing speed, improve clarity of highlights tones and produce sepia tones. On her way back to Seattle she met Alvin Langdon Coburn in London, and Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Kasebier in New York.

Once back in Seattle she opened her own studio and won acclaim for portraiture and pictorial work. Most of her studio work of this time consisted of sitters in their own homes, in her living room, or in the woods surrounding Cunningham's cottage. She became a sought after photographer and exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1913.
In 1914 Cunningham's portraits were shown at “An International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography” in New York and a portfolio of her work was published in Wilson's Photographic Magazine.
The next year she married Roi Partridge, an etcher and artist. He posed for a series of nude photographs, which were shown by the Seattle Fine Arts Society. Although critically praised, wider society didn’t approve of such images and Cunningham didn’t revisit the pictures for another 55 years.
Between 1915 and 1920 Cunningham continued her work and had three children (Gryffyd, Randal and Padraic) with Roi. Then in 1920 they left Seattle for San Francisco where Roi taught at Mills College.
In San Francisco, Cunningham refined her style, taking a greater interest in pattern and detail as seen in her works of bark textures, trees, and zebras. Cunningham became increasingly interested in botanical photography, especially flowers, and between 1923 and 1925 carried out an in-depth study of the magnolia flower. Later in the decade she turned her attention towards industry, creating several series of industrial landscapes throughout Los Angeles and Oakland.

In 1929, Edward Weston, nominated 10 of Cunningham's photos (8 botanical, 1 industrial and 1 nude) for inclusion in the "Film und Foto" exhibition in Stuttgart. Cunningham once again changed direction to become more interested in the human form, particularly hands (and a further fascination with the hands of artists and musicians). This interest led to her employment by Vanity Fair, photographing stars without make-up or false glamour. In 1932, with this unsentimental, straightforward approach in mind, Cunningham became one of the co-founders of the Group f/64, which aimed to “define photography as an art form by a simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods”.
In 1934 Cunningham was invited to do some work in New York for Vanity Fair. Her husband wanted her to wait until he could travel with her but she refused and they later divorced. She continued her work with Vanity Fair until it stopped publication in 1936.
In the 1940s Cunningham turned to documentary street photography which she did as a side project whilst supporting herself with her commercial and studio photography and later on with teaching at the California School of Fine Arts.
Cunningham continued to take pictures until shortly before her death at age 93 on June 24, 1976 in San Francisco, California.


ANSEL ADAMS. Frozen Lake and Cliffs, Sierra Nevada, 1932.
Gelatin silver print.


American photographer. He trained as a musician and supported himself by teaching the piano until 1930. He became involved with photography in 1916 when his parents presented him with a Kodak Box Brownie camera during a summer vacation in Yosemite National Park. In 1917–18 he worked part-time in a photo-finishing business. From 1920 to 1927 he served as custodian of the Le Conte Memorial in Yosemite, the Sierra Club’s headquarters. His duties included leading weekly expeditions through the valley and rims, during which he continued to photograph the landscape. He considered his snapshots of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, taken during the early 1920s, to be a visual diary, the work of an ardent hobbyist. By 1923 he used a 61/281/2-inch Korona view camera on his pack trips, and in 1927 he spent an afternoon making one of his most famous images, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park (Chicago, IL, A. Inst.;). Adams planned his photograph, waited for the exact sunlight he desired and used a red filter to darken the sky against the monumental cliff. He later referred to this image as his ‘first true visualization’ of the subject, not as it appeared ‘in reality but how it felt to me and how it must appear in the finished print’.

ANSEL ADAMS. Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Tosemite Valley, California, c. 1927.
Gelatin silver print.

ALMA LAWENSON. Calveras Dam II 1932.
Gelatin silver print. Alma Lavenson Association and Susan Ehrens, Berkeley, Cal.