• EUGENE SMITH info for Final Exam Essay,  “Walk to Paradise Garden”, 1946


 STUDY GUIDE FINAL EXAM+++++++Everything is now online on this page, if you prefer to print out documents then use pdf links above.


The final exam will cover the last 5 Lecture sessions

FINAL EXAM will cover:

Early Color and Art Photography-Pictorialism 1890-1920 Study Guide/Readings 6

Documentation: Social Scene to 1945 (Social Reform) Study Guide/Readings 7

Art, Photography, & Modernism-The New Vision Study Guide/Readings 8

Words & Pictures: Photographs in Print Media 1920-1980 Photojournalism, Fashion, Advertising Study Guide/Readings 9

Photography since 1950: The Straight Image Study Guide/Readings 10

Photography since 1950: Manipulations & Color-Postmodernism Study Guide/Readings 11

TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 147 Multiple Choice/FBlank: 20 point Image ID: 50 point ESSAY: 77 point

Any extra points will be applied to your Midterm exam score, to help raise your grade point average.




There will be 20 combined multiple choice and fill in the blank questions

Be able to identify by recognizing the meaning of these terms and influence within the History of Photography or by photographer’s works: Review pages on my blog, it’s all here, just read!

“Snapshot Aesthetic”

“Snapshot Aesthetic” was one of the major influences on straight photography during the 1960’s which reflected the desire for naïve camera imagery depicting this decade’s vernacular and “pop” culture, showing the emblems of contemporary culture in a casual style that had a lack of artifice and a neutral emotional tone.

“New Objectivity”

New Objectivity describes Photographs that display an emphasis on “the thing itself” the essence of an object, often utilizing the technique of close-up, to concentrate on intrinsic material qualities with sharp focus, unusual perspectives, and isolated details, while eliminating extraneous matters, and intensifying the appreciation of forms and structures in ordinary things but de-personalizing the photographer’s approach, best describes this movement in the history of photography that had its origins in Germany in the 1920’s, with influential photographers Karl Blossfeldt and Albert Renger-Patzsch.

“Subjective Realism”

Photographs with themes that are social in nature, but are concerned mainly with expressing, “a personal vibration, an autobiographical sign”, describes “Humanized and Individualized photography” better known as subjective realism.

“The Family of Man”

“The Family of Man” was the name of the popular 1955 MOMA exhibition and publication consisting largely of journalistic images, (508 images from 68 countries) organized by Edward Steichen, and whose theme was to show how the “most important service photography can render is to record human relations and explain man to man, and man to himself” thus, celebrating the “essential oneness of mankind throughout the world and the universality of everyday experience.

“New Topographics”

“New Topographics” describes the usually highly structured deadpan photographs from the 1960’s-1970’s that evolved out of the concept of “social landscape” images, such as those by photographers, Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, Bernd & Hilla Becher, and Stephen Shore, that present the artifacts and landscapes of contemporary industrial culture without subjective emotional shading, or laden with strong feelings about the desecration of landscape.

Know this quote:

“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” Garry Winogrand

Be able to identify the following photographers by recognizing a description of their work:


In the late 1920’s the transformation of Vogue from a society journal into a magazine marked the real beginning of fashion photography as a genre. Photographer Edward Steichen later went on in 1947, to become Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and was the catalyst behind this elegant sophisticated “new look” that displayed an instinctive flair for glamorous dramatic contrasts and for the decorative possibilities of geometric shapes that were stylistically consistent with other emblems of 1920’s modernism.


This photographer created the book Naked City, a 1936 publication of photographs about New York City, and sought sensationalist news stories with a large press camera, and approached scenes of everyday life, as well as violence and death, with uncommon feeling and wit, credited with ushering in the age of tabloid culture, while at the same time being revered for elevating the sordid side of human life to that of high art.


Photographed Paris by night in the 1930’s, at the suggestion of Kertesz, capturing life at bars, brothels, and in the streets.


Photographer, Minor White, following in the direction of straight photography begun by Stieglitz and Weston, with an eye for equivalences between form and feeling, searched for allusive or metaphorical meanings in the appearance of reality, attracting a cult following in the 1960’s, and persuasively arguing that photos be made to embody a mystic essence, that the camera reveal “things for what they are”, and “for what else they are” believing the practice of photography be a spiritual act or tool for spiritual enlightenment, “Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence”


Photographer Diane Arbus’s influential images reflected the influence of Lisette Model, and the inspiration of Weegee and are powerful psychological portraits of the physically deformed and socially marginalized, and show compassion for individuals considered bizarre by conventional society, yet display mocking treatment of so-called normal individuals.


Photographer William Klein’s raw grating views of New York in the 1950’s ignored traditional ideas about sharpness, tonal range, and print quality, and were received as a rather unacceptable critical vision of American society, especially the middle class.


Photographer, Roy Decarava depicted his neighborhood Harlem in the late 40’s through 60’s with a humanist outlook, a profound sense of intimacy, and an acute attention to the handling of light and structure of forms.


Photographer Helen Levitt’s images depicted lyrical views of youngsters, begun in the 1940’s in b/w and continued intermittently up through the 1970’s in color that illuminated the toughness, grace, and humor of those growing up in New York’s inner city neighborhoods.


Post -Modernist photographer best known for her “Untitled Film Stills”, a series of conceptual self-portraits that were not about “herself”, but instead utilized herself as a model in her performance art to portray female identities as a form of social performance or gender constructed positions dependent on circumstance–By addressing archetypal images of woman, in the guises of clichéd B-movie heroines, signifying social role-playing and sexual stereotypes, she encourages self reflection in the spectator, as well as serving to perpetuate the critical discourse concerning the construction of woman-as-image.


Legendary fashion photographer made studio portraits, masterfully capturing gesture and expression against a white background, using 8×10 format that accentuated every detail (flattering and not) of the sitter, creating an anti-fashion statement, (often revealing the private persona of public figures) as well as producing commercial fashion work influenced by Martin Munkacsi, that emphasized movement and natural settings.


Their influential photographs, often arranged in a grid, or groupings, represent a 40 year+ catalog of industrialized architectural structures or objects, (such as mine shafts, lime kilns, silos, cooling & winding towers, blast furnaces, coal bunkers) claimed as typologies, (documenting similarities rather than celebrating distinctiveness), souvenirs of the industrial age (portraying the decline and fall of the very industrial order photographer Renger-Patzsch glorified) that are photographed isolated, centered, and frontally framed, shot in an objective manner, with large-format and fine grain b/w film in an even, diffuse light with minimal shadows, and a subtly elevated vantage point, yielding not just an aesthetic but a vision.


Contemporary photographer working in B &W and using 8×10 format, is best known for intimate photographs of her family which explore childhood, adolescence, and puberty, some of which have sparked controversy regarding nude images of her children depicted without modesty and candor.


Described himself as a “primitive photographer”, working in a fairly isolated area of Kentucky, and influenced by his own interests, which included Zen Philosophy and poetry, who died prematurely at 47, creating groundbreaking disturbing photographs of surreal images of dolls, and family or friends in Halloween masks, arranged in bizarre poses in abandoned buildings or backyards, conveying metaphysical questions about individuality, mystery, and melancholy, as well as environmental abstractions exploring camera experimentations such as deliberate camera movement, and “no focus” techniques.


Photographer that creates surreal and beautiful fantasy/hyper realism Edward Hopper like “movie still” color photographs, elaborately staged, into carefully constructed large scale tableaux that explore the domestic landscape and its relationship to an artificially heightened natural world; depicting an underlying edge of anxiety, isolation, and fear that explores the mysterious moment of time between “before” and “after”.




YOU WILL HAVE ABOUT 1/3 to ½ a page to answer them, and you can certainly expand your writing to back of page.


Explain some of the concerns of the Pictorialist photographic movement (about 1889-1912), by discussing their :goals, influences, styles and themes concerning subject matter, as well as some of the photographic materials and techniques they used for expression. What was the Photo-Secession? Who organized it?

Name at least two members, their significance, and concerns of their photographic work.

“The arts equally have distinct departments, and unless photography has its own possibilities of expression, separate from those of the other arts, it is merely a process, not an art.”—Alfred Stieglitz

Styles and themes: WITHIN THE DIVERSITY OF STYLES THAT EMERGED, an art of NUANCE, MYSTERY–an art “ESSENTIALLY CONCERNED WITH PERSONAL VISION”. Pictorialists thought their photos should show the capacity to handle “composition, chiaroscuro, truth, harmony, sentiment, and suggestion”. Inspired by painters and confronted by a confusing array of outmoded and emerging artistic ideologies and stylistic tendenciies, from Barbizon naturalism to Impressionism, Tonalism, and Symbolism.

Many chose to work within the thematic categories already staked out by painters—portraits, landscapes, nudes, mythical/historical scenes, and everyday activities. –oven overlaid large parts of a picture with shadow and fog. In contrast to their simple subjects, they strove for tonal complexity—using technique like platinum printing, which yielded abundance soft middle gray tones–They liked textured paper—not glossy commerical that they resembled watercolors—and would look like the Hill and Adamson or Cameron photos which they admired… They had interest in Japanese prints early 1900’s with their flattened space and the principle that one should beautify the experience of everyday life—am idea promoted by the arts and crafts movements and art nouveau.

Many were attracted by motifs that had already been accepted by art critics and public—among which the IDEALIZTION OF PEASANT LIFE, first explored by Barbizon painters at mid 1800’s ranked high. A theme that attracted both aesthetic photographers and painters was the NATURAL LANDSCAPE, often regarding the landscape with a sense of sad melancholy. Stylistically—Pictorialists preferred the twilight or dim moment to sun drenched daylight-quiet intimate pond to dramatic wilderness—instead of crisply defined forms and strong contrasts of earlier topographical imagery, they offered vague shapes and subdued tonalities. THE FEMALE FIGURE, both as a study in beauty and a symbol of motherhood was another subject of common interest. Softly focused portraits of elegantly attired enigmatic women favored by Pictorialists, stressed stylishness and charm rather than strength of character. Also, women and children engaged in leisurely domestic activity or at play in home and garden appealed to both men and women photographers, who produced idealized visions of intimate family life, transforming what formerly had been a mundane genre subject into a comforting visual idyll of middle class decorum.

THE NUDE–Attitudes changed—the nude not only pictured as goddess or slave—the nude became motif in and for itself –while some photog’s still cast nude figures as sprites and nymphs, others no longer felt the need to obscure their attraction to the intrinsically graceful and sensuous forms of the unclothed female. The very absence of allegory or narrative in this treatment served to emphasize the new role of the photog as art. Most were of adult females, the male body being considered by nearly everyone as too flagrantly sexual for depiction in any visual art intended for viewers of both sexes. Journals after 1890 suggested young boys bodies less provocative than woman’s bodies so some Pictorialists used allegorical guise to be artistically accepted as male nudes. They wanted to stress beauty over sensuality. Early photog’s of the nude were constrained by Victorian attitudes toward unclothed human body,and realistic nature of photography, so most Pictorialists endowed their images with allegorical dimension.

Goals: Pictorialists wanted to provoke thought and feeling and also provide a record—this was a dual role. Pictorialists wanted to address the perceived imbalance of mechanical in photography over artistic, by selecting subjects traditional to the graphic arts, by emphasizing individualistic treatments, and by insisting on the artistic presentation of camera images. Pictorialists thought their photographs should be regarded as pictures in the same sense as images made entirely by hand-they should be judged for their artistry and ability to evoke feeling rather than for their powers of description. They also wanted to appeal to collectors of visual art, of which aesthetic quality and individuality were important considerations. Pictorialists maintained that artistic photographs should be regarded as equivalents of work in other media and treated accordingly by the artistic establishment. The goal of the Pictorialist movement from about 1890-1920 was the promotion of the photograph to the status of an art object.

Concerns: Pictorialism was based on the belief that camera images might engage the feelings and senses and nourished initially by the concept of Naturalism by PH Emerson. Creating an artistic photograph that was “ESSENTIALLY CONCERNED WITH PERSONAL VISION” The aesthetic photographers who were its advocates held that photographs should be concerned with beauty rather than fact. They regarded the optical sharpness and exact reproduction aspects of the photography as limitations inhibiting the expression of individuality and therefore accepted manipulation of the photographic print as an emblem of self expression. They wanted to have equal status to painting and printmaking. Many Pictorialist photographers took from theories of Impressionist painting an awareness of the power of individual temperament to affect what the artist sees and represents to the viewer. ––they perpetuated the idea of the individual over the masses, and the emergence of the artist from the crowd, and the value of a photo as an art object. They were quite an elitist bunch.

“Pictorial photography looked for a harmony of matter, mind, and spirit; the first was addressed through objective technique and process, the second in a considered application of the principles of composition and design, and the last by the development of a subjective and spiritual ‘motive’.”

Pictorialism was the first real attempt by photographers to establish the validity of photography as an art form. Through the use of soft-focus and hand-manipulation of negatives and prints, photographers achieved a style that likened photographs to painting, the privileged high art medium. The subject matter was often romanticized and was generally figural and representational. In this early quest for legitimacy, photography, in spite of its inherent differences, had taken on the characteristics of painting.

Materials and techniques: EXPLORATION of creative ideas by hand manipulation directly on the print—excessive handwork produced photos as a unique print considered by many at the time to tbe hallmark of artistic photography and often was indistinguishable from litho’s ,etchings, and drawings—some Pictorialists didn’t like this, and wanted the unique qualities of the photo to show. Using non silver substances such as bichromated gelatin (gum bichromate) and carbon-materials originally perfected to assure permanence-they found they were able to control tonalities, introduce highlights, and obscure or removed details that seemed too descriptive. Many of these effects were accomplished by using fingers, stumps, pencils, brushes, and etching tools to alter the forms in the soft gum, oil, and pigment surfaces, before they hardened, or by printing on a variety of art papers, from heavily textured to smooth Japanese tissues. –scratching and drawing directly on the negative

The Pictorialist advocates of straight printing did not usually intervene in the chemical substances of print—and felt the heavily manipulated images were–“fuzzygraphics”—these straight printing Pictorialists followed the course marked out by Emerson—finding in carbon and platinum paper the luminous tonalities and long scale of values they believed were unique to the expressive character of photography. Like Emerson*, many preferred to make multiple images by the hand gravure process—

Emerson’s ideas reflected an increasing interest in the possibility of personal expression in photography. Remember, his advice, he felt the student should convene with its subject, to transcend the essence of that subject that they could uniquely express as their own heartfelt authentic vision of it. He implored that photographers represent truth and beauty, in their photographs but that this should derive from the real world, not a contrived artifice or a poor imitation of a painting like Robinson’s. He allowed the use of selective focus, because he felt this was the real way that the eye took in a scene, so its scientific basis was an actual one. Emerson believed a photograph must be made in the camera rather than the darkroom, Single composed shot –no faking. –We see this idea again in the purist photography of Bresson, –Emerson replaced the word pictorialism with naturalism, which claims to represent the actual world as it appears before the camera.

PH Emerson-they took the name Pictorialism from his writings and lectures–…Pictorialists misunderstood his writings in a creative way to move away from faithful depiction toward more evocative and expressive photos. They adopted Emerson’s disgust with industrialization and mass produced goods, as well as his belief in photography as fully fledged modern art form. The embraced his choice of subjects but abandoned Emerson’s allegiance to recent science. In pictorialist hands, Emerson’s selective focus, became a dislike of the distracting details associated with vulgar commerical photography.

Influences: They really wanted to differentiate themselves and their photographs from the abundance of amateur vernacular imagery, as well as photographs being regarded as a servant of science and commerce– They wanted to control the printing of their photos, and wanted to have their photos look like artworks, not some homogenized commercial print not being made by the photographer–so, in an effort to both change photography’s status and establish photography as an art form in its own right, and to separate and define its makers as “artists”, Pictorialism and Pictorialist photographers were born. The advent of snapshot photography resurrected long-standing accusations that the photograph was the automatic product of a machine;photographs were popularly seen as both instantaneous and unmediated and Pictorialists were responding to this.

The best way to understand the progression of pictorialism is to think about HP Robinson’s ideas, and Emerson’s ideas, and how pictorialism developed out of both of those origins, as well as what was happening with Impressionisn, Post Impressionism, and the Symbolist** Art Movement.–

**Symbolism (1880-1890’s) refers to subjective, anti-Realist tendencies in art and literature at the end of the 19th century. Symbolist photographers used light and shadow, and objects that held some classical or allegorical representation. —the systematic use of symbols or pictorial conventions to express an allegorical meaning. Symbolists were in favor of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams; highly metaphorical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning.

In modern use the term pictorialism is sometimes taken to suggest conservatism, and the unwillingness to explore new approaches. In its original meaning anything that put the finished picture first and the subject second was pictorialism. Given such a meaning, pictorialism by no means excluded more modern trends; any photograph that stressed atmosphere or viewpoint rather than the subject would come under this category. In effect, the term Pictorialism is used to describe photographs in which the actual scene depicted is of less importance than the artistic quality of the image. Pictorialists would be more concerned with the aesthetics and, sometimes, the emotional impact of the image, rather than what actually was in front of their camera. Because pictorialism was seen as artistic photography, one would not be surprised that current styles of art would be reflected in their work; as impressionism was in vogue at the time, many photographs have more than a passing resemblance to paintings in this style. – lessening the detail, going against that which is inherent to the mechanization of the camera was the goal.

While pictorialism lost its currency as a movement, it persisted as an aesthetic diaspora, whose concern with craft, the constructed image, and personal expression have remained influential. Pictorialism, as a term, characterized photography whose intention and expression derived from fine art, as opposed to that whose object was purely scientific, documentary, or commercial. And still photography competes at auction to establish its own value, and protect its role and status.

Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams 1899– It is no coincidence that the photographs look dreamy and unresolved. Artists were looking within, not simply copying or seeing what was obvious.

Photo-Secession: Photo-Secession.was the photographic group formed in 1902, in the US, organized by Alfred Stieglitz, which gave cohesiveness, direction, and exclusivity to the concerns of the Pictorialist movement committed to advancing photography’s status as a fine art. The Photo Secession wanted to separate themselves from the proliferation of vernacular amateur photography and the mass commercialization of it. Camera Work was the name of the 14 year old Pictorialist periodical launched in 1903 in New York, by members of the Photo-Secession, that was praised for its exceptional design and gravure reproduction.

In 1905, Stieglitz, in association with Edward Steichen, opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue—291 Gallery was originally an outlet for exhibiting work by Photo-Secessionist photographers. Most instrumental figure in establishing photography as a medium of fine art was Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz worked tirelessly through his efforts as a photographer, collector, curator, writer, and publisher to secure photography’s role as a legitimate medium of fine art.

Photo-Secession Members:

-Gertrude Kasebier : praised for “what to leave out” in her photos—she wanted to make portraits ” that are biographies, to bring out in each photograph the essential personality” She produced final prints much closer to Old Master compositions than to the photographs of many of her contemporaries. —images for which she is best known are of her family and friends and celebrate motherhood. Her photographs typically were soft and hazy, almost opalescent, and emotionally complex, portraying women as nurturing, spiritual, maternal beings. –well known for her work in portraits, employing relaxed poses in natural light. She emphasized the play of light and dark, and allowed the sitter to fill the frame so little room was left in the edges of the photograph. Her work was featured in the first issue of Camera Work.

She was keen on allegorical themes, and one of her series was on motherhood. It was said of her that her purpose in taking photographs was “not to inform, but to share an experience, to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.”

-Clarence White-His photos embody the Tonalist*** style in American pictoriaism with their concentration on light and atmosphere, and carefully realized tonal and spatial tension…and a true sense of domestic grace.. His pictures are characterized by his use of light, often creating a virtual glow from the highlights. He experimented widely with printing processes, including platinum and gum bichromate.

Parted ways with Steiglitz, emerged as the leader of pictorialist photography, and in 1914 he established the C.H. White School of Photography in NYC, which taught many of the leading photographers of the following generation, HIS TEACHING was a significant contribution to the History of Photography, giving photo students a strong grounding in composition and design, and encouraging them to make their own pictorial decisions. He remained rooted in Pictorialism, and continued the Pictorialist tradition at the school, but also embraced a variety of approaches and techniques. His emphasis on design and his inspirational teaching encouraged many students to embrace the new modernist vision of the 1920’s and 30’s. He was also a kind and gentle teacher.

*** Tonalist –softly expressive, suggestive rather than detailed, often depicting the landscape at twilight or evening, when there is an absence of contrast. –could also be figurative, but in them, the figure was usually out of doors or in an interior in a low-key setting with little detail.


Describe the wide variety of techniques, styles, and approaches of Modernist Photography, otherwise known as “The New Vision”, a period which encompassed the full potential of photography from 1920- 1945. Name at least 3 photographers whose work exemplifies this period, and explain the significance, style, and approach of one of these photographers.

Beginning in the 1910s, a new photographic sensibility began to emerge which signaled a shift away from the painterly, manipulated, and soft-focus photography. Modernist photographers and theorists proposed that photography should represent the technical characteristics of the medium-pure and unmanipulated. Modernism became a prescriptive model through which photography could come into its own as an established art form. Photographers became increasingly fascinated by what could be achieved through their medium. The break from painterly photography marked the idea of the uniqueness of the photographic process.

Among modernists, two conflicting approaches to photography emerged. In September 1928, Pierre MacOrlan, a mystery writer and Abbott’s friend, defined the approaches as:

Plastic “plastic : Plastic” photography referred to mechanical experiments, such as photograms or compositional experiments with abstraction and distortion that were derived from painting

documentary.”. By contrast, documentary photography relied less on technique than on vision, capturing “contemporary life…at the right moment by an author capable of grasping that moment.”

For MacOrlan, documentary photography was “the most accomplished art, capable of realizing the fantastic and all that is curiously inhuman in the atmosphere that surrounds us, and even in man’s very personality.” Because

photography enabled an artist to reveal the fragmented, disorienting experience of the modern city, it qualified as “the expressionist art of the era.”

1919-1938 this period between the 2 world wars 1914-1918 WW1 and WW2 1939-1945 was an intense explosion in style and subject matter in the History of Photography, from Surrealism, Modernism to Social Documentary Journalism.

In 1910, Stieglitz renounced pictorialism in favor of a more modernist aesthetic of sharply focused, “straight” photographs that made a virtue of the optical clarity and precision of the camera such as Paul Strand.

Wide Variety of Techniques, Styles, Approaches: -The “New Vision” invigorated straight photography in Europe by showing the known world in uncharacteristic ways.

Hand, eye, or work were visible themes, montage or straight images—symbolically suggested that camera work was the result of both craft and vision, a concept embodied in the theories of Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and the Werkbund ****

**** The Werkbund, which was founded in Munich in 1907, was composed of artists, artisans, and architects who designed industrial, commercial, and household products as well as practicing architecture.

Actual reflections, unusual angles, close-ups—unconventional vantage points were techniques used by photographers to express social and psychological attitudes and explore aesthetic ideas

DIFFERENT USE OF REFLECTIONS–In Atget, dreamlike aura, in the hands of the modernists, served to confound one’s sense of space or to introduce seemingly unrelated visual reference. — The use of reflective surfaces is a common modernist device to reveal how every viewpoint, artistic or ideological, is constructed rather than natural.

F/64 the photographic group, established in 1930, in San Francisco, that promoted Precisionism through its advocacy of the large format view camera, small lens aperture, and printing by contact rather than enlarging F/64

COLLAGE & MONTAGE… THE CLOSE-UP: photograms–multiple exposures –unifying graphics and photography, so that lettering and pictures would become one whole.

-the transformation of objects, experimental images of the body, visions of the city, and the industrialization of the countryside. – Photographers were interested in exploring objects which symbolized the technological feeling of the Machine Age. They were also interested in using photography as the medium to explore avant-garde artistic experimentations. They also saw its inherent capabilities for mass advertising, as well as the camera’s use as a documentary tool for showing social reality.

There are a lot of different examples of what constitutes modernism within the History of Photography. There is a European school of Modernist photography and then an American school of Modernist photography. In America, the leading figures that helped to form the ideas behind the work that was created was Paul Strand Alfred Steiglitz, and Edward Weston. Coburn born in the US, joined the Photo Secession in 1903, but then left for England in 1904, and made abstract vortographs in 1916 — In Europe, it was the Czech photography of František Drtikol. In 1918, at the end of WWI, Czechoslovakia gained independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In the post-war euphoria a new generation of Czech fine art photographers looked beyond its borders to forge links with the flourishing avant-garde and modernist movements of Art Nouveau Dada and Surrealism in Western Europe. Russia, it was Rodchenko,– In Soviet Russia, Alexander Rodchenko’s work advocated a new aesthetic vision that would change individual and mass consciousness. He emphasized the constructedness of images, rejecting the illusion that photographic representations could be an unproblematic mirror of reality. Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) at the Bauhaus in Germany 1923-28– explored the abstract possibilities of photographic and cinematic images. In Italy, the Futurists exploited blurred movement to celebrate the speed and dynamism of modern life. In Berlin and throughout Europe, Dadaist photomontage was used to challenge the authority of mass-cultural representations. This new generation of photographers set the direction of modern photographic practices and trends between the wars and beyond.

In Europe, avant-garde artists sought to break down traditional definitions of art, and the barriers between art and design, often with the utopian aim to merge art with everyday life. They also questioned the notion of artistic identity based on the myth of the artist as a special kind of being emoting over a canvas in the isolation of a studio. Instead, they embraced technologically advanced means of production, developed mixed-media practices, and often engaged with social and political issues. Weston used the expression the thing itself, Siskind spoke of the altogether new object, and Adams spoke of photographing truthfully. Yet, their concern is similar: each wanted to use the camera with absolute adherence to the basic characteristics of the medium: a straight, unmanipulated aesthetic, sharp focus, new and extraordinary viewpoints, and dramatic use of tonality. Each hoped their images would lead to insight and emotion. This warring duality between objectivity and sentiment is one of the defining characteristics of Modernist photography.

STRAND’s work signaled the shift in sensibility that was taking place on an international scale at the time—last exhibition at 291 before it closed 1916—startling candid portraits of NYC street people, virtually abstract studies

-By the late 1920s, in both Europe and America, inventive young photographers—often allied with such avant-garde movements as Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and the New Objectivity—had created an image of vitality and glittering prosperity that was widely felt to mirror the new metropolis. By the early 1930s this euphoric image was shattered as an economic crisis of unprecedented scope swept Europe and America. Again, it was photographic images, this time by young documentary photographers and photojournalists such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee, which captured the desperate efforts to revive urban and rural communities during the remainder of the decade. By 1940 many of these documentary photographs were also considered as art.

3 Photographers: -Man Ray, Edward Weston, Hannah Hoch

Hannah Hoch: Höch, German Dada artist, was a pioneer of the art form that became known as photomontage. Many of her pieces point out the faults of beauty culture—often depicted same sex couples, –women a central theme in her work –also made strong statements on racial discrimination. Marriage did not escape her criticism—she depicted brides as mannequins and children, reflecting the idea that women are not seen as complete people and have little control over their lives. Höch saw herself as part of the women’s movement in the 1920. Her pieces also commonly combine male and female into one being.. She is best known for her work of the Weimar***** period, when she was one of the originators of photomontage.

*****The term Weimar Republic is used by historians to signify the democratic and republican period of Germany from 1919 to 1933.

Man Ray: I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”

Man Ray was an artist who painted what he could not photograph and photographed what he could not paint.

Formed the American branch of the Dada movement, which began in Europe as a radical rejection of traditional art. Living in Paris for 20 years, Man Ray revolutionized the art of photography. He did this first by reinventing several techniques—like the rayograph in 1922 and solarization in 1929—and then by pursuing a very different path from his fellow photographers. While straight photography in the United States and the “new photography” in Europe boasted skilled technique, Man Ray concealed his interest in craftsmanship and invented a surrealist photography. Man Ray, the master of experimental and fashion photography was also a painter, a filmmaker, a poet, an essayist, a philosopher, and a leader of American modernism. Duchamp was to be one of Man Ray’s greatest influences as well as a close friend and collaborator. Together the two attempted to bring some of the verve of the European experimental art movements to America. The most energetic of these movements was “dada.” Dada was an attempt to create work so absurd it confused the viewer’s sense of reality. The dadaists would take everyday objects and present them as if they were finished works of art. For Man Ray, dada’s experimentation was no match for the wild and chaotic streets of New York, and he wrote “Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”

This interest in minimalism and abstraction carried over to Man Ray’s experiments with what he termed “rayographs.” Many artists responded positively to Man Ray’s daring combination of minimalism, chance, and absurdity. Though deeply immersed in the artistic life of France, World War II forced Man Ray to leave Paris, and he moved to Hollywood. He spent ten years there working as a fashion photographer. With his brave use of lighting and minimalist representation, Man Ray produced fashion photographs unlike any that had come before—and forever changed that discipline.

Edward Weston: is best known for his still lifes of peppers and shells, his heroic portraits, and abstract close-ups of nudes, rocks, and trees. The hallmarks of Weston’s best known work — a commitment to clarity and simplification, truth to materials, and interest in the purely formal qualities of mundane objects and everyday subjects — all defined his work as modern. His work is abstract and sensual.

Accelerating his exploration of abstraction, Weston sought sculptural beauty in the natural world. In the next few years, he produced some of his most memorable nudes, as well as a remarkable series of close-ups of organic forms including shells, peppers, onions, eggplants, artichokes, and cabbages. While his earlier work emphasized magnification and fragmentation, in the 1930s and 1940s Weston often stressed the wholeness and interrelatedness of things.

Weston’s late work is bittersweet in mood and majestic in spirit. In the late 1930s, he responded to surrealism and Dada in his experimentation with unexpected juxtapositions of incompatible objects in dreamlike, often ironic images. Without manipulating subject or medium as his contemporaries often did, Weston explored surrealism to move beyond the high-modernist formalism that had dominated his work up to this time. Where Cartier-Bresson tried to show that art was manifest in ordinary life, Weston for most of his career attempted to eliminate ordinary life from his frame, seeing art only in the form of the ideal. Indeed, this could be said to be the essential proposition of his work. The very substance and quintessece of the thing itself…intense concentration on form virtually transmuted the object into an abstraction.

He controlled form, and tone through choice of motif, exposure time, and the use of the ground glass focusing screen of the large format camera. This way of working which he called “pre-visualization, was a factor in Weston’s exclusion of temporal and transient effects of light, atmosphere, and movement, in order to concentrate on revealing the object in its “deepest moment of perception, creating an image more real and comprehensible than the actual object.

For a period of around 10 years from the mid-20s to the mid-30s, Weston produced a series of works that clearly defined modernism in photography; portraits, still-life, landscape and nudes that were precise, formally elegant, technically fine and without manipulation, using the qualities of lens and film to the fullest.


Discuss the emergence & growth of Social Reform photography and Social Documentary style from late 19th C. until 1945. How did the concerns and ideals of this movement manifest itself in the photographs in terms of depiction of subject matter, style, and intent? How were these photographs used and viewed? Briefly discuss the significance of any two of the following photographers, projects, or group: Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, the FSA Project, Berenice Abbott’s “Changing New York” project, and The Photo League.

Emergence & Growth: Organized social reform movements related to the inequitable social conditions, and the invention of an inexpensive means of mechanically reproducing the photograph’s halftones were two factors that caused social reform photography to emerge in the late 19th century. The practice of illustrating news stories with photographs was made possible by printing and photography innovations that occurred between 1880 and 1897. While newsworthy events were photographed as early as the 1850s, printing presses could only publish from engravings until the 1880s. Early news photographs required that photos be re-interpreted by an engraver before they could be published. By 1897, it became possible to reproduce halftone photographs on printing presses running at full speed.

Despite these innovations, limitations remained, and many of the sensational newspaper and magazine stories in the period from 1897 to 1927 were illustrated with engravings. In 1921, the wirephoto, sending of pictures by telegraph or telephone made it possible to transmit pictures almost as quickly as news itself could travel. However, it was not until development of the commercial 35mm Leica camera in 1925, and the first flash bulbs between 1927 and 1930 that all the elements were in place for a “golden age” of photojournalism.

In the “golden age” of photojournalism (1930s–1950s), some magazines (Picture Post (London), Paris Match (Paris), Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Berlin), Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (Berlin), Life (USA), Look (USA), Sports Illustrated (USA) and newspapers (The Daily Mirror (London), The New York Daily News (New York) built their huge readerships and reputations largely on their use of photography, and photographers such as Robert Capa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White and W. Eugene Smith became well-known names.

After 1915, social documentary withered due to WWI, and then the armory show, and modernism, abstraction, expressionism, and dadaism –new styles and concepts that made realism and expression of human emotion and sentiment in visual art seem old fashioned and contributed to a brief eclipse of the social documentary sensibility in the 1920’s. In the 30’s the motive force was the invisible nature of the economic and social catastrophe known as the GREAT depression. Lasting about 10 years from 1931-41, till American entry into ww2, the period was characterized by high unemployment, labor unrest and agricultural disaster caused by persistent drought and misuse of the land. Pervasive rural poverty resulted in waves of internal migrations as families from the heartland made their way west in search of jobs and crop worthy land. The upheaval, both urban and rural, moved the FED govt under PRES FDR’s New Deal to relieve the suffering of “1/3 of the nation by providing resettlement loans to farmers and work programs for the urban unemployed.

Working people early on portraits as types , rather than individuals—workers in portraits early on were descriptive, exotic—not about changes!! (Beato) The directness of style associated with social documentation emerged around 1850, the consequence of expanded camera documentations on paper and glass of historic and modern structures, in which the photographers involved demonstrated an earnest respect for actuality and an attentive regard for the expressive qualities of light. While these photographers did not seek to mystify or obscure their subjects, they did realize that the attentive management of light added an aesthetic dimension to the description of objects and events.

How did Concerns and Ideals of Social Reform manifest itself in the photographs in terms of depiction of subject, style, and intent? In general, documentary style embraces two goals, the depiction of a verifiable social fact and the evocation of empathy with the individuals concerned. Because social images were meant to persuade, photographers wanted to communicate that their subjects were capable of human emotions and that they were being kept from fully realizing their human qualities by their difficult surroundings. As a result, photos used in social reform campaigns not only provided truthful evidence but embodied a commitment to humanistic ideals. The social reform photographer repeatedly transformed a mundane record of what exists into a fervent plea for what might be, recognized by selecting sympathetic types and contrasting the individual’s expression and gesture with the shabbiness of the physical surroundings.

This particular type of idealism became a basic tenet of the social documentary concept. In the photographs produced by the RA/FSA photographers,(excluding Walker Evans), express a “future oriented” attitude in the subjects depiction, meaning if they were taken out of the poor situation they were in, their strength and determination, and pride would allow them to approach the future with renewed optimism. The goal was often to appeal to the middle class, and viewers could judge the subject as lazy, or in the predicament they were in due to their own fault and mistakes if they were pictured more critically.

Many of the social reform photographs were about the viewer recognizing the placement of a dignified, strong subject in bad circumstances that could be alleviated through proposed changes into a better living or work situation or environment. This future orientation was the key to the Farm Security Administration’s entire conception.

They were proposing to create a “better future” for the rural poor, and they wanted the photographs to prove it.

Worker-photographer movement differed significantly from the reformist goals of Riis and Hine. Instead of images meant to provide middle class viewers with evidence of the need for improved conditions, photographer’s intentions were aimed directly at the workers, to make them conscious of their conditions and their political strengths. This was going on in Europe, especially eastern Europe. They took their cue from social and stylistic development in the Soviet Union. The photographers showed their images where working people congregated and reproduced them in the Leftist press. They defined the camera as a social and political weapon in the class struggle, and saw the worker- photographer as the eye and the conscience of the proletariat.

Photographs used and Viewed? Early on, Jacob Riis showed his photos in lantern slide lectures and then published How the Other Half Lives, subtitled “Studies among the Tenements of New York”, in 1890,– “Children of the Tenements” (1903) , “Children of the Poor” (1892) as well as other books. Lewis Hine published his photos in pamphlets and in 1908 Hine published Charities and the Commons, a collection of photographs of tenements and sweatshops. Hine hoped he could use these photographs to help bring about social reform. He believed his photographs would encourage people to “exert the force to right wrongs”.– two books on his child labor photographs,

Child Labour in the Carolinas (1909) and Day Laborers Before Their Time (1909 and The construction of the Empire State Building which was later published as a book, Men at Work (1932).—then later documentary work was seen regularly in picture magazines such as Life Magazine.

Most social reform and documentary photographs were accompanied with caption or text, or accompanying story, and often seen in groups, or sequenced. Walker Evans presented his photographs as a portfolio with no accompanying text in LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN, a 1941 book on the conditions among white sharecropper families in the U.S.

South in desperate poverty, he worked on with American writer James Agee whose text precedes but does not describe Evan’s photographs. In general, documentary style embraces two goals, the depiction of a verifiable social fact and the evocation of empathy with the individuals concerned. YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES, book published in 1937, by photographer Margaret Bourke White and novelist Erskine Caldwell The Deep South–from South Carolina to Arkansas—a document of the living conditions of the sharecropper. Their collaboration was a graphic portrayal of America’s desperately poor rural underclass. Caldwell lets the poor speak for themselves. Supported by his commentary, they tell how the tenant system exploited whites and blacks alike and fostered animosity between them. Bourke-White, who sometimes waited hours for the right moment, captures her subjects in the shacks where they lived, the depleted fields where they plowed, and the churches where they worshipped.

(study only 2 from the list below)

Jacob Riis: was the photographer in the US who was the link between older Victorian concepts and emerging Reform attitudes towards social problems, and whose subject was the tenement world, where the poverty-stricken half of New York’s population lived. Riis’s lack of experience as a photographer sometimes worked to his advantage. His blurred, half-lit images both fascinated and frightened his audiences.

In the introduction to How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis wrote:

Long ago it was said that ‘one half of the world does not know how the other half lives.’ That was true then. It did not know because it did not care. The half that was on top cared little for the struggles, and less for the fate, of those who were underneath, so long as it was able to hold them there and keep its own seat.” Riis wrote How the Other Half Lives to call attention to the living conditions of more than half of New York City’s residents

They made misery demonstrable in a way that nothing else had. No political or economic or cultural theory could justify the crowding his photographs document. There was no explaining away the sense of oppression and confinement they reveal. In picture after picture you see not only the poverty and the congestion of the Bend—the stale sweatshops and beer dives and five-cent lodging houses—but the emotional and psychological consequences of people living on top of each other. Since the mid-20th century, Riis has been considered one of the founders of documentary photography.

“I had use for it,” Riis wrote of the camera, “and beyond that I never went.” The actual photographs were seen only in lantern slides accompanying his lectures. What mattered was not aesthetics but what the pictures showed. Riis had a similar use for words and statistics. They were merely tools to persuade New Yorkers to witness what was right in front of their eyes.

For reformers, Riis included, the trouble with the Bend wasn’t merely the profits it returned to slumlords and city politicians, nor was it just the high rents that forced tenants to sublet floor space to strangers. The problem was also how to portray the Bend in a way that conveyed its contagious force, the absence of basic sanitation, of clean water and fresh air, the presence of disease, corruption, and crime, the enervation and despair. It was, for Riis, the problem of representing an unrepresentable level of defilement.

“HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES” was the name of the first and most influential publication in 1890, in book form, of photographs and personal reportage based on Jacob Riis’s investigations of social conditions in the Mulberry Bend slum in New York City. As a Police reporter, Jacob Riis started taking photographs of the horrible living conditions of the Mulberry Bend Slum to have irrefutable evidence and have action taken to eradicate the situation–To prove the truth of his words and to make the relationship between poverty and social behavior clear to influential people. The photos were seen as a way to produce undeniable evidence of the existence of vagrant children, squalid housing, and disgraceful lodgings the police provided the homeless.

As lantern slides for Riis’s popular lectures, and as illustrations for articles and books these photos were significant elements of the successful campaign to eliminate the worst shanties in Mulberry bend and to close down the police lodgings.

Appealing to the Victorian Conscience

Riis believed that environmental changes could improve the lives of the numerous unincorporated city residents that had recently arrived from other countries. Riis attempted to incorporate these citizens by appealing to the Victorian desire for cleanliness and social order.

Mothers and Children

Riis’s photographs challenged Victorian notions of mothers and children. One of his photographs shows a mother with her naked children standing on a rooftop. In others, children play out on the streets unattended. These photographs contrasted sharply with images of children in late-nineteenth-century America. Think about how Kasabier’s images contrast with Riis’s.


In his photographs, Riis showed that the unincorporated could be dangerous; that their abodes were dirty; that neighborhood streets were crime-ridden. By appealing to the consciences and fears of middle-class and upper-class

city residents, Riis helped initiate reform efforts. Riis’s photographs had a certain shock value. He looked for images that would have a strong effect on his viewers—dirty children on the streets, men living in dumps and cellars.


Riis’s photographs also challenged Victorian notions of the home. In one photograph, a tenement family makes cigars at the table. In another, a man sits down to a solitary meal in a coal cellar. In addition to people, Riis photographed empty barracks and dilapidated housing.

De-Emphasizing the Individual

He often de-emphasized the individual in favor of the total setting. Accordingly, he photographed many of his subjects at a distance to show them in their squalid surroundings.

It was not Riis’s custom to provide the names of his subjects. When he did provide identifying material, it was often condescending. Such commentary revealed Riis’s own ambivalence to his subject matter. Like many middle-class Americans, Riis disapproved of immorality and disorder, and he found both in the neighborhoods in which he worked.

Lewis Hine: photographer, sociologist and humanist, is best known for his insightful portraits of immigrants at Ellis Island and his unflinching views of housing and labor conditions in the United States. Hine infused his humanist concerns into a style of documentary photography that set the standard for delivering a social message through his medium. An Anti Immigrant sentiment was pervasive and Hine portrayed the newly arrived in early 1900’s with the same dignity and respect as those immigrants who landed at Plymouth Rock. Hine began to photograph new immigrants at Ellis Island using a 5×7 camera, w/flash—and showed the indivudal with dignity and humanity in contrast to the more common distanced view. Declaring that he “wanted to show things that had to be corrected,” he was one of the earliest photographers to use the photograph as a documentary tool.

Believing in the power of photography to persuade authorities to enact better housing codes for tenements and labor laws protecting children, Hine approached social welfare agencies about using his images for reform campaigns. In 1907 he was invited to participate in the Pittsburgh Survey, which was designed to investigate the living and working conditions of that heavily industrialized city. This survey was to be an all encompassing detailed view of a typical industrial city, showing the gap between the largely unskilled immigrant workers and the comfortable middle class of managers, executives and politicians. The goal of the survey was to promote a rational understanding of the social and economic inequities.

Following this he became a staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee for 8 years and traveled across much of the southern and eastern states documenting the working conditions of factories, fields, mines, mills and canneries which made use of child labor. The results of Hine’s photographic pursuits eventually led to the establishment of child labor and safety laws for all workers. The images were used in pamphlets, magazines, books, slide lectures, and traveling exhibits, many which Hine organized and designed.

To gain access Hine sometimes hid his camera and posed as a fire inspector. Hine told one audience: “Perhaps you are weary of child labour pictures. Well, so are the rest of us, but we propose to make you and the whole country so sick and tired of the whole business that when the time for action comes, child labour pictures will be records of the past.” Hine’s photographs alerted the public to the fact that child labor deprived children of childhood, health, education and a chance of a future. His work on this project was the driving force behind changing the publics attitude and was instrumental in the fight for stricter child labor laws. In 1916 Congress eventually agreed to pass legislation to protect children.

In the 1920s Hine joined the campaign to establish better safety laws for workers. Hine later wrote: “I wanted to do something positive. So I said to myself, ‘Why not do the worker at work? The man on the job? At the time, he was as underprivileged as the kids in the mill.” The worker was always a favorite theme of Hine’s and he believed that the emerging modern technologies of the 1920’s and 1930’s would lift the burden of hard labor from them. Hine began in the 1920’s a series of photographs he called “Work Portraits” which showed man and machine at work together. Perhaps his best known series from this group is his commission to document the construction of the Empire State Building from March 1930 to May 1931. Where much of Hine’s previous work had documented the dark side of labor and progress, the Empire State Building photographs celebrated the dignity and productivity of a proud post war American labor force.

In 1908 Hine published Charities and the Commons, a collection of photographs of tenements and sweatshops. Hine hoped he could use these photographs to help bring about social reform. He told one meeting that he believed his photographs would encourage people to “exert the force to right wrongs”.Hine’s critics claimed that his pictures were not “shocking enough”. However, Hine argued that people were more likely to join the campaign against child labor if they felt the photographs accurately captured the reality of the situation.

Around 1920, Hine changed his studio publicity from “Social Photography by Lewis W. Hine” to “Lewis Wickes Hine, Interpretive Photography,” to emphasize a more artistic approach to his imagemaking and reflected Hine’s belief in the symbolic and artistic aspect of his work. From the beginning of his photographic career, Hine thought of himself as

an artist. The poses and titles of some of his early photographs are reminiscent of paintings. He died in poverty, neglected by all but a few. His work was donated to THE PHOTO LEAGUE by his son, no interest at the time, and later placed in George Eastman House collection.

-FSA Project: The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The images show Americans at home, at work, and at play, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization. Some of the most famous images portray people who were displaced from farms and migrated West or to industrial cities in search of work. From 1935 to 1943, photographers working for the federal government produced the most enduring images of the Great Depression. Beginning under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration in 1935 and then the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1937, a group that over time included about twenty men and women worked under the supervision of Roy E. Stryker to create a pictorial record of the impact of hard times on the nation, primarily on rural Americans. . As FSA photographer Arthur Rothstein later recalled, “It was our job to document the problems of the Depression so that we could justify the New Deal legislation that was designed to alleviate them.”

The most completely realized photography project of the period, sponsored by govt agencies was undertaken by the Historic Section of the Resettlement Administration, later known as the FSA-Farm Security Administration. The project represented the NEW DEAL understanding that a visual documentation of conditions of work and life faced by farmers who suffered the calamities of drought and economic depression, and were in the process of being driven from the land was required to justify FED expenditures for relief projects. Eventually in response to Congressional displeasure at the depiction of unrelieved poverty, photographers were directed to portray more positive aspects of the national experience.

This project should be seen in relation to other Fed sponsored cultural endeavors in that all originated from the practical necessity of giving jobs and recording the effects of relief and reconstruction programs. They were also influential in directing interest in the American scene and reviving a trust for realistic representation in the visual arts, as a result in the US, the realist style enjoyed a brief period of coexistence with the more formally conceived modes of expression derived from European modernist movements. Some FSA photographers: Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee, and others…ROY E. Stryer, was the section Director. SEE MORE DETAILED INFO BELOW ABOUT THE FSA AND ITS CONCERNS, THEMES-

-Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York Berenice Abbott was the photographer, inspired by the work of Atget, who photographed New York City, as a project entitled, “Changing New York” under the WPA, to document the urban experience during the Depression era, photographing the old and new transformation of New York City.

This Urban Depression experience project was shot under the banner of the FED art project and the Works Progress Administration Program—WPA by a group of socially committed photographers who formed the Film and photo league, from which the Photo League emerged in 1936. The most fully realized project from this WPA group of photographers, was a documentation of NYC initiated by Berenece Abbott.

On the basis of her experiences as a photog in Paris, and inspired by the work of Atget, she conceived of the city as a theme that might reflect “life at its greatest intensity. In Abbott’s vision, Changing NY, as the project came to be called, was meant to evoke “an intuition of past, present and future”, and include single images and a series of related pictures supported by texts. From 1935 to 1939 directed the ‘Changing New York’ project for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, which resulted in the book of photographs Changing New York (1939). Like Atget’s views of Paris these covered both the people and architecture of New York in a methodical and detached way.

Organized in eight geographical sections (e.g., Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and Outer Boroughs), Abbott’s views of New York contribute greatly to the documentation of the social, commercial, and architectural history of the city. Eugene Atget’s approach to documenting cities with sparsely populated views of streets and shop fronts clearly shaped Abbott’s own work in documenting New York City.

Upon seeing the city again after living in Paris, however, Abbott immediately saw the photographic potential of the city. Accordingly, she went back to Paris, closed up her studio, and returned to New York quickly. Her first photographs of the city were taken with a hand-held Kurt-Bentzin camera, but soon she acquired a Century Universal camera which produced 8 x 10 inch negatives. Using this large format camera, Abbott photographed New York City with the diligence and attention to detail she had so admired in Eugène Atget. Her work has provided a historical chronicle of many now-destroyed buildings and neighborhoods of Manhattan.

Abbott worked on her New York project independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations (such as the Museum of the City of New York), foundations (such as the Guggenheim Foundation), or even individuals. She supported herself with commercial work and teaching at the New School of Social Research beginning in 1933. In 1935, however, Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor for her “Changing New York” project. She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.

Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study imbedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as “fantastic” contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilized it (if she scorned it).

Abbott’s ideas about New York were highly influenced by Lewis Mumford’s historical writings from the early 1930s, which divided American history into a series of technological eras. Abbott, like Mumford, was particularly critical of America’s “paleotechnic era,” which, as he described it, emerged at end of the Civil War. Like Mumford, Abbott was hopeful that, through urban planning efforts (aided by her photographs), Americans would be able to wrest control their cities from paleotechnic forces, and bring about what Mumford described as a more humane and human-scaled, “neotechnic era.” Abbott’s agreement with Mumford can be seen especially in the ways that she photographed buildings that had been constructed in the paleotechnic era–before the advent of urban planning. Most often, buildings from this era appear in Abbott’s photographs in compositions that made them look downright menacing.

-The Photo League  was the name of the group formed in the mid 1930’s in the US ,by politically conscious photographers committed to the tradition of straight picture making, whose specific purpose was the promotion of documentary photography through a school, and the establishment of units organized to depict the less picturesque aspects of urban life, which they felt were being ignored by art photographers, and Pictorialists?


What was the FSA Project, and its mission? The black-and-white photographs of the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are a landmark in the history of documentary photography. The images show Americans at home, at work, and at play, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization. Some of the most famous images portray people who were displaced from farms and migrated West or to industrial cities in search of work. From 1935 to 1943, photographers working for the federal government produced the most enduring images of the Great Depression.

Beginning under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration in 1935 and then the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1937, a group that over time included about twenty men and women worked under the supervision of Roy E. Stryker to create a pictorial record of the impact of hard times on the nation, primarily on rural Americans. . As FSA photographer Arthur Rothstein later recalled, “It was our job to document the problems of the Depression so that we could justify the New Deal legislation that was designed to alleviate them.”

The most completely realized photography project of the period, sponsored by govt agencies was undertaken by the Historic Section of the Resettlement Administration, later known as the FSA-Farm Security Administration. The project represented the NEW DEAL understanding that a visual documentation of conditions of work and life faced by farmers who suffered the calamities of drought and economic depression, and were in the process of being driven from the land was required to justify FED expenditures for relief projects. Eventually in response to Congressional displeasure at the depiction of unrelieved poverty, photographers were directed to portray more positive aspects of the national experience.

This project should be seen in relation to other Fed sponsored cultural endeavors in that all originated from the practical necessity of giving jobs and recording the effects of relief and reconstruction programs. They were also influential in directing interest in the American scene and reviving a trust for realistic representation in the visual arts, as a result in the US, the realist style enjoyed a brief period of coexistence with the more formally conceived modes of expression derived from European modernist movements. Some FSA photographers: Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee, and others…ROY E. Stryer, was the section Director.

From 1935 to 1943, photographers working for the federal government produced the most enduring images of the Great Depression. Beginning under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration in 1935 and then the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1937, a group that over time included about twenty men and women worked under the supervision of Roy E. Stryker to create a pictorial record of the impact of hard times on the nation, primarily on rural Americans. They were proposing to create a “better future” for the rural poor, and they wanted the photographs to prove it. This future orientation was the key to the Farm Security Administration’s entire conception.

The FSA photography project is most responsible for creating the image of the Depression in the USA. Many of the images appeared in popular magazines. The photographers were under instruction from Washington as to what overall impression the New Deal wanted to give out. Stryker’s agenda focused on his faith in social engineering, the poor conditions among cotton tenant farmers, and the very poor conditions among migrant farm workers; above all he was committed to social reform through New Deal intervention in people’s lives. Stryker demanded photographs that “related people to the land and vice versa” because these photographs reinforced the RA’s position that poverty could be controlled by “changing land practices.”

Though Stryker did not dictate to his photographers how they should compose the shots, he did send them lists of desirable themes, e.g., “church,” “court day,” “barns.” Stryker sought photographs of migratory workers that would tell a story about how they lived day-to-day. He asked Dorothea Lange to emphasize cooking, sleeping, praying and socializing. Photographs such as Dorothea Lange’s 1936 portrait “Migrant Mother” and Walker Evans’s 1936 series depicting the faces and homes of Alabama sharecroppers have become icons of the era, pictures that in their directness and simplicity record the conditions of poverty while also celebrating the persistent human spirit of survival in even the most difficult of circumstances. FSA photographs presented their rural subjects in ways that middle-class viewers could recognize and sympathize with. Attempting to overcome fears about the disorder provoked by the depression, photographers chose poses and points of view that emphasized their subjects’ dignity, orderliness, and responsibility in the face of hardship. They did not intend their photographs to deceive.

Rather, as historian James Curtis has written, “project director Roy Stryker and his staff created a powerful portrait that communicated rural suffering in terms that an urban middle class would readily understand.”

FSA supplied prints for reproduction in the daily and periodical press. Project photogs were given shooting scripts from which to work, did not own their neg’s, no control over how the pictures might be cropped or arranged, and captioned. –their position similar to commercial journalists working for the press,. –both Lange and Evans hated this. In 1938, show at MOMA they were transformed into works of art. FOR THE FIRST time, photograph made to document social condtions were accorded the kind of recognition formerly reserved for aesthetically conceived camera images.

Name at least 3 photographers who worked for the FSA Project, and discuss the photographic approach, style, and significance of one of them. Which two photographs became iconic images from this difficult period in American History? Explain any interesting details about either, or both of these images.

-3 FSA Photographers:

-Dorothea Lange: “One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it.” –Dorothea Lange

The pain of her childhood, however, gave her a fuller sense of what suffering meant, and later on, when the government hired her to document the effects of the depression, it deepened her compassion for the destitution and despair that she saw all around her. Her polio limp, she thought, created an instant rapport between herself and her subjects. She said that people trusted her more because she didn’t appear “whole and secure” in the face of their poverty and insecurity.

“I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were–their pride, their strength, their spirit.”

From 1935 to 1940, Lange’s work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten, particularly displaced farm families and migrant workers, to public attention. Lange, used Rollei –upheld the need for the photographer to exercise control over the neg’s, humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

In the early 1930s, Lange intuitively took her camera to the streets, recording the breadlines and waterfront strikes of Depression San Francisco. During World War II Lange documented the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps and recorded women and minority workers in wartime industries. In 1940 she became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for photography. In 1935 Lange began her landmark work for the Farm Security Administration.

Try to recognize the “future-orientation” of “Migrant Mother”–and how she had to shoot a sequence before getting what she wanted. (not, in any way, mean to degrade Lange’s ability as a photographer; but only to show the subjective nature of this image, as opposed to Evans’ objective style.) Lange’s earlier work documenting displaced farm families and migrant workers during the Great Depression did not prepare her for the disturbing racial and civil rights issues raised by the Japanese internment. To capture the spirit of the camps, Lange created images that frequently juxtapose signs of human courage and dignity with physical evidence of the indignities of incarceration. Not surprisingly, many of Lange’s photographs were censored by the federal government, itself conflicted by the existence of the camps. Her photo “White Angel Bread Line.” Hung on her studio wall and next to that image, she put a quotation from the English philosopher, Francis Bacon: which sums up her life’s work..Both remained on that wall for the years to come.

The contemplation of things as they are without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.

More significantly, the combination of these two reminders proved transformational for Dorothea Lange. From that day until her death, she applied her creative imagination, her commitment to excellence, and her skill as a photographer to record social and cultural events in America. Best known – and perhaps most lasting — are her photographs of the 1930s and 1940s.

-Walker Evans used an 8×10 camera insisted on the right to realize his own particular concept of documentation. What attracted him more than artistic photographers were the often anonymous records of small-town America, postcards, portraits and old photographs that recorded scenes and events unselfconsciously – the ‘vernacular’ tradition in photography.

Evans combined this straightforward and often frontal approach to the medium with a sophisticated analysis of the content of images, their relationships with other pictures and their cultural context which derived from literary models.

Essentially he was a photographer of ideas.

His book American Photographs, 1938, however, provides an unparalleled insight into the way that Evans saw his own work, and it represented a considerable enlargement of the complexity and possibilities available to the photographer, one that many later photographers – notably Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander – were to pick up and exploit. “.

American Photographs, 1938 had handsome interesting photographs, but together they formed a major work of art, a masterpiece of sorts.

In 1941 Walker Evans co-published, along with James Agee, the ground-breaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It was a series of photos by Evans along with accompanying text by Agee, detailing the two’s journey through the rural south during the Great Depression. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title “Many are Called

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 1941, Evans photographs begin the book. There are over 50 images–mostly one picture to a page. There are no quotations, or captions–just images of the three tenant families, and their houses, possessions, etc: “Evans believed his photographs were self-explanatory; the presence of words implied that the image was somehow deficient.” Keeping the images separate from Agee’s text brought more recognition to the images themselves, and it was a total break from the trends of photo-journalism, which used images to illustrate text.

The images are quintessential of Evans’ “documentary style”; Evans’ dis-interested approach to these families resulted in portraying them with dignity and strength, although they lived in complete poverty. He sought to show the beauty of order and respectability within such an impoverished condition. Thus, many of the photographs are posed portraits, often made with the 8×10 view camera.

The effect is one of confrontation with the reader–not with Evans, but with the tenant-farming families themselves. In this regard Evans became the visual translator of these people to the rest of the alienated American public. In so doing, and in conjunction with his work for the FSA, Evans revolutionized the concept of documentary photography. That is, he artfully removed himself from the equation. His objective style brought the viewer into confrontation with the subject, with no hint of subjective authoritarian influence. These images are the best example of that fact, and accordingly were the hallmark images for which Evans became known.***VERY IMPORTANT, IT’S AS IF HE REMOVED HIMSELF AS THE PHOTOGRAPHER< AND THE SUBJECT TRANSCENDED THEMSELVES TO THE VIEWER

Evans made his images for a higher purpose than just the FSA. By escaping the political propaganda nature of working for the government, Evans successfully created a sense of realism. His ability to create images that lack subjectivity, and lack the presence of an author, furthered the claim of many that photography was an objective process. However, the camera is merely a tool, like a pen or a paintbrush, and it too, expresses the intentions of its possessor. This being said, Evans’ talent was his ability to make images that speak for themselves. Evans photgraphs seem to exist as historical moments in time, hard-edged facts–not interpretations; thus the viewer responds to the image itself–to the contents within it–not to the photographer’s construction of it.

The objective picture of America in the 1930’s made by Evans was neither journalistic or political in technique and intention. It was reflective rather than tendentious (in favor of a particular point of view) and, in a certain way, disinterested.

Evans, sought to abandon any form of romantic idealism in his images. He achieves this realism, by using subjects that are of the everyday–often street scenes, or material objects such as a pair of shoes, or a sign on the wall–that seem to speak as symbols of the world in which they are a part, and for the people who live in their environment. Evans found a beauty in banal objects that other FSA photographers would carelessly ignore. Part of his attraction to buildings, and patterns is rooted in his previous architectural work, that he did in New England in 1931. His images show that architecture can be as representative of a people as the people themselves.

Evans wanted nothing to do with the political agenda of the New Deal; he was not heading for the goal proposed by Stryker (that people had the ability to raise themselves up from their poor conditions). Stryker said: “You could look at the people and see fear and sadness and desperation. But you saw something else, too. A determination that not even the Depression could kill. The photographers saw it– documented it.” This may have applied to some photographers, such as Russell Lee and Dorothea Lange, but not for Evans. His work lacked an “expression of future-orientation.” This future orientation was the key to the Farm Security Administration’s entire conception. They were proposing to create a “better future” for the rural poor, and they wanted the photographs to prove it. However, by looking at Evans photographs, it should become evident that Evans’ goal was to photograph his subjects as they were in the present, by using his abilities as an artist to portray these people for who they were, not what they should or would become.

Two iconic FSA images:

THE FSA images were considered truthful expression by some and socialistic propaganda by others who mistook the emphasis on social issues for socialism itself, but Americans were affected by them. The impact of the great depression on rural communities has been perceived by later generations on the basis of certain key images— Rothstein’s Dust Storm, and Lange’s Migrant Mother, the most famous icons of the time. Migrant mother was selected by Stryker as the picture to symbolize the concern of the government for displaced farmers, bit it is the sum of the images that created their force.

Dorothea Lange’s MIGRANT MOTHER:

Lange has manipulated her subjects, to imply that a poor mother with two children (an average amount) will be capable to lead her family(doesn’t her face express it?) out of their state of suffering, into the more prosperous future, if she is given the chance.

Stryker said of this image:

When Dorothea took that picture, that was the ultimate. She never surpassed it. To me it was the picture of Farm Security. She has all the suffering of mankind in her, but all the perserverance too. A restraint and a strange courage.

Rumor has it that the two younger children’s faces are turned away from the camera because they were smiling and laughing during the picture, but none of the six frames shows them laughing or smiling. Lange had them turn away to give the image a more solemn, desperate mood Migrant Mother, then, is not only a visual representation of “our history, but a picture with a sixty-year history of use and appropriation. An all inclusive icon–mother and child–it is also a locus for different stories, for alternative histories that have to do with class and race. In fact, the power of this image to convey both sameness and difference, not only in 1936 but in 1964 and 1973, suggests that throughout its history, its meanings have been and are constructed by powerful responses to it. And yet it is also Dorothea Lange’s image–the work or a photographer who would claim her own physical and historical “outsidedness” as a source of special affinity for her suffering subjects.

The photograph that has become known as “Migrant Mother” is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state for what was then the Resettlement Administration. In 1960, Lange gave this account of the experience: “It was raining, the camera bags were packed, and I had on the seat beside me in the car the results of my long trip, the box containing all those rolls and packs of exposed film ready to mail back to Washington. It was a time of relief. Sixty-five miles an hour for seven hours would get me home to my family that night, and my eyes were glued to the wet and gleaming highway that stretched out ahead. I felt freed, for I could lift my mind off my job and think of home.

“I was on my way and barely saw a crude sign with pointing arrow which flashed by at the side of the road, saying

PEA-PICKERS CAMP. But out of the corner of my eye, I did see it…

“Having well convinced myself for 20 miles that I could continue on, I did the opposite. Almost without realizing what I was doing, I made a U-turn on the empty highway. I went back those 20 miles and turned off the highway at that sign, PEA-PICKERS CAMP.

“I was following instinct, not reason; I drove into that wet soggy camp and parked my car like a homing pigeon.

LANGE” I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The images were made using a Graflex camera. The original negatives are 4×5″ film. Dorothea Lange’s poignant image of a mother and her children on the brink of starvation is as moving today as when it first appeared in 1936. Lange made six exposures of this striking woman, who lived in a makeshift shelter with her husband and seven children in a Nipomo, California, pea-picker’s camp. Lange made this photograph while working for the Resettlement Administration, a government agency dedicated to documenting the devastating effects of the Depression during the 1930s. Her image depicts the hardship endured by migratory farm workers and provides evidence of the compelling power of photographs to move people to action.

Migrant Mother, a timeless image of hardship and courage and Dorothea Lange’s most iconic image, was made under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) initiative during America’s Great Depression.

Arthur Rothstein’s DUST STORM

Staged,–he was candid, about his directed candids, explaining– He believed that directing your subject or controlling the action was acceptable if the photographer was conveying a faithful reproduction of what he believes he sees. The little boy was asked to drop back and hold his hand over his eyes. The farmer was asked to lean forward as he walked. Finally, the whole scene was made to take place in front of the shed. This showed the effect of the dust storm and the poverty of the farmer more clearly than the other buildings. He felt that his Photographs concern belief, NOT truth. This image was not so much a “future-oriented” one; it was more of an “exaggeration of suffering”–completely manipulated by Rothstein to appear as such.

Rothstein is trying to show his subjects struggling against the harsh winds and dust, that has ruined the plains of the midwest, and therefore has asked them to lean forward. In the middle image, though, the concept of struggling through the wind and dust, but moving away from the shelter(the house), does not make sense. Thus, he realized that posing his subjects in front of a shack–that cannot even serve as a shelter, for the door has been blocked by accumulating dust–including two young children to increase the sympathetic response from the viewer, would make a much more powerful image. It does.

Rothstein said:

The repetition of a scene before a different background with some changes of movement will sometimes result in a more effective picture.

So, here again, we see the editing, and creative process of the photographer evident in the photograph. “Fleeing a Dust Storm” was another hallmark image of the FSA. People believed it. However, we see that Rothstein staged it, and even admitting to staging it.


Describe Henri Cartier-Bresson’s approach to photography summed up in his concept of “The Decisive Moment” by detailing his method of working to arrive at this moment

Intuition, Recognition, and Organization (geometry-formal quality-composition) working together as described below:

The decisive moment requires an interrelationship of eye, body and mind that intuitively recognizes the moment when formal and psychological elements within the visual field take on enriched meanings. He said, “Photography is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give the event its proper expression”. “It’s like putting your head, heart, and eye on the same axis”. Once this moment is gone, if the photographer misses this moment, it’s gone forever.

It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis

He upheld the importance of individuality and spontaneity in the photographic process, maintaining that “you have to be yourself, and you have to forget yourself” in order to discover the exact instant and position from which the photograph might be able to extract a moment of meaning from ongoing existence.

His first book contained an often-quoted paragraph that sums up his approach to photography and has become something of a creed for candid, available light photojournalists everywhere. The decisive moment, as Cartier-Bresson tersely defined it, is ‘the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”

Throughout Bresson’s career, he upheld his own philosophy of individuality and spontaneity in the photographic process. He feels that “you have to be yourself and you have to forget yourself” in order to discover the exact instant and position from which the photographer extracts a moment of meaning from ongoing existence. Thus results in a style rooted in the own photographer’s personality and commentary.

Bresson’s method of working to achieve this moment involved him scouting out a location with interesting setting or background, composition, and then waiting patiently for this stage to be peopled, and all the elements in place. He felt the camera was like an instant drawing. He thought everything should be seen and captured for eternity in the image, no later cropping.

This way of working requires an interrelationship of eye, body and mind that intuitively recognizes the moment when formal and psychological elements within the visual field take on enriched meaings.

To take a photograph means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second– both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.


Advances in equipment during the mid 1920’s and the increased prominence of picture journals affected combat photography as well as other kinds of images. A crucial factor in this development was the invention in Germany of a small, lightweight 35mm roll camera appearing on the market in 1925 that was easy to handle, with a fast lens and rapid film advancement mechanism-what was this camera called and what kind of influence did it have on image making?


Influence: Allowed photographer to always be on the ready, make split second decisions about framing and exposure, move quickly, and act with intuition (intuitive rather than well thought-out responses), spontaneity, low light use both outdoor and indoor available light, because of fast lens so distracting flash wasn’t needed, camera could be easily concealed helping photographer remain inconspicuous, was quiet and unobtrusive, could be discreet and capture unguarded candid or intimate moments, allowed photographer to think less about the equipment settings and more on the image and their vision, could make sequential exposures easily and quickly, leica gave the photographer energy and decisiveness and immediacy to their picture making, camera was lightweight but very durable so it could be relied upon in even war zones, new angles were seen in images because of handheld portability, sharp images high quality lens, helped usher in a new innovative era of street photography and photojournalism.


Humanist photographer, W. Eugene Smith, displayed a strong sense of compassion in his work, and thought of his camera as an extension of his conscience, and his images as reflections of his need to get to the heart of the matter. Explain his photograph, “The Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946” as HE DESCRIBED its making and meaning, and any other significant details discussed in class regarding this image.

FOR THIS QUESTION REFER TO W. Eugene Smith’s account of the making of this photograph below:

Info for Final Exam Essay question on Eugene Smith’s photograph, “The Walk to Paradise Garden, 1946”. Sourced from the excellent book: Looking At Photographs, by John Szarkowski Historian Nancy Newhall described Eugene Smith’s work as “haunting and eternal”. She considered some of his pictures to be as powerful as Michelangelo’s drawings. Critic Gene Thornton found them “reminiscent of Old Master Paintings”. High praise for a photographer. But Gene Smith’s work inspired that kind of response. Smith accompanied American troops in the Pacific during World War II, and he documented twelve island invasions. On his thirteenth mission he was badly wounded, and he spent painful years back in America convalescing.   About this memorable photograph, Smith wrote:
The children in the photograph are my children, and on the day I made this photographic effort, I was not sure I would be capable of ever photographing again…On this day, for the first time since my injuries, I would try again to make the camera work for me, would try to force my body to control the mechanics of the camera; and, as well, I would try to command my creative spirit out of its exile…Something compelled that this first photograph must not be a failure-pray God that I could so much as physically force a roll of film into the camera!
I was determined that this first photograph must sing of more than being a technical accomplishment…I was almost desperate in this determination, in my insistence that for some reason this first exposure must have a special quality. This photograph of his two children, strolling so sublimely carefree down an enchanting garden path, became a metaphor for more than Smith’s bold affirmation of life after the nightmare of his wartime experience. It was chosen by Edward Steichen as the triumphant closing photograph of his majestic exhibition, “The Family of Man”. Heralded around the world as the greatest photographic exhibition ever assembled, it influenced the lives and
thoughts of people in virtually every country in the world.
The exhibition, of course, did not bring about the world harmony for which Steichen and the photographers who contributed to the show had dared hope. But it did achieve astonishing, if immeasurable, results. Many who viewed these affecting images went away changed forever. Their feelings for their fellow man and the fragile planet they shared were strengthened perceptibly by the compelling power of black and white photographs-pictures that told a simple but gripping tale of man’s dependency on his fellow travelers for continuing peace and happiness.


Robert Frank’s groundbreaking book, “The Americans”, was a photographic odyssey through the US in the mid 1950’s, and established a tone and style for the next generation of photographers. Beat poet/writer Jack Kerouac in his introduction to “The Americans”, expressed a clear understanding for Robert Frank’s images, writing, “Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.”

Describe some of the themes evident in these photographs, as well as a brief explanation of Robert Frank’s influential photographic approach?

Themes: ordinary moments and people, the anti decisive or indecisive moment—in between moments (almost like a syntax in a poem, the pause between the lines), emptiness, angst-frustration, redefined the icons of America such as cars, jukeboxes, gas stations, diners, and even the road itself into symbols for contemporary life,sadness, melancholy, loneliness, consumerism of American postwar society, racism, contrast and conflicts between classes, American obsession with materialism, alienation, poverty, ageing and death, outsider’s view of America’s values and lifestyle didn’t match the post war idealized happy go lucky commodity that was being portrayed elsewhere (looking beneath American culture for its skeletons)– the recurring element of the American flag –Frank concentrates on the ordinary, the things you see on the road and along its edges, but he also deals with real issues, such as race and poverty.

Frank’s Influential photographic approach: He showed a personal view of America that was both foreign and unpleasant to the comfortable middle class which both produced and consumed ‘culture’ in America. Frank often used the device of deliberately obscuring his subjects’ faces – he was more interested in his views than the reactions of his subjects. How Mr. Frank photographed was far more unsettling and influential than the subjects he chose. The anger and loneliness he detected everywhere is reinforced by the disruptive angles of his framing and the lack of refinement in the images.

Frank used a Leica, small, quiet and relatively inconspicuous camera. Even for the films of the time, his results are often pretty grainy – probably often enhanced by inaccuracies in exposure. Working always with available light also resulted in some pictures being blurred by camera or subject motion, particularly when he was snatching pictures in dimly lit interiors of shops or elsewhere. Frank was often taking pictures where many would not have bothered to try.

–irreverent (mocking/bold), unposed, loose casual compostions, erratically framed, blurred forms that showed little emphasis on sharpness, Frank’s ironical approach often used methods of abstraction, conceptualism, symbolism and use of metaphor in his personal form of documentation considered “subjective realism”. His images were meant to be seen as a group, and as a book the editing and narrative sequence were important to him. Young hipsters in the late 50’s took to his style and ideas, as they had their fill of heroes and icons, but the art establishment critics dismissed the work as too harsh.

Anti-aesthetic attitude evident in his low light out of focus techniques, unconventional symmetry and cropping, unusual angles, tilted horizons, grainy, snapshot quality were just as influential and controversial as his subject matter. Some of the pictures seem to be ‘badly’ framed, either because of the speed at which he worked, or perhaps in some cases because he did not raise the camera to his eye, instead shooting from hip or chest. Of course the framing may have been deliberate, designed to give an impression of spontaneity, a truth to reality not present in carefully ordered images. He seldom talked to people and usually tried not to be noticed while he was photographing. He was interested in what he thought about the people he photographed, and had little interest in what they might think of him and of having their picture taken.


In Roland Barthes’ book, Camera Lucida, Reflections on Photography, Barthes, developed the concepts of Studium and Punctum. Explain them, and any other points you remember from our discussion of Barthes. You will find the answer here, on my other blog:


Analyze ONE of these three iconic photojournalistic images. Explain its social and political significance, as well as, your formal interpretations of the image and subject matter in terms of its aesthetic forms, type of documentary style, and your own personal response to understanding this photograph in and out of the context of its use, and your own instinctive response to it.


Joe Rosenthal, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima, 1945

-Joe Rosenthal, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima, 1945

See the story of this photograph in Joe Rosenthal’s words here:

Series of three prints

Eddie Adams Execution of a Viet Cong Suspect, Saigon, 1968

 -Eddie Adams, Execution of a Viet Cong Suspect, Saigon, 1968

Nick Ut, South Vietnamese Children Burned by Napalm, 1972

-Nick Ut, South Vietnamese Children Burned by Napalm, 1972

11. ANALYZE PHOTO: PART I: 3 POINTS PHOTOGRAPHER SECTION   PART I: Pick any one of the photographer’s you identified in the image id section, and briefly outline their photographic style or concerns. Think about which photographer and their image you would want to describe from the image id section, so you will be prepared to answer this question.



PART II: Analyze the image you identified for this photographer above, in terms of its formal aesthetic qualities (composition/form/structure/technical considerations), and its content/narrative interpretations (ideas/meaning/intent/emotion). Follow the format of any of the writing exercises you did for class: Descriptive, Essay or Creative—You may construct an impromptu poem if this form of language better illustrates your impression of the photograph.


Either MATCH THE corresponding photograph’s letter label from image sheet you will download and print with its identification description below or just memorize the images as shown below online.  Memorize at least one thing from description to recognize image on test, title or artist name.

 ON THE FINAL EXAM THE DESCRIPTIVE INFO WILL BE THERE FOR YOU, AS SHOWN BELOW–AND YOU WILL NEED TO PUT THE CODE FROM THE PHOTO ON THE IMAGE SHEET INTO THE CORRECT IMAGE LABEL. Do  not memorize the letter codes, they will be different on the final exam, they are just here for you to understand the formatting of the test form.





Berenice Abbott, Zito’s Bakery, Bleecker Street, NY 1937



Frederick H. Evans, A Sea of Steps, 1903



August Sander, Young Girl in Circus Caravan, 1932



Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1980



Edward Steichen, The Pond, Moonrise, 1905



Clarence H. White, Morning 1908




Bruce Davidson, Two Youths, Coney Island 1959



Jacob Riis, “I scrubs”, The Children of the Poor, 1892



Irving Penn, April 1950 Cover, Vogue



Ansel Adams, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, CA, 1927



Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907



Alexander Rodchenko, Chauffeur, 1933



Walker Evans, Washroom Dog run Floyd Burrough’s home, Hale County, Alabama, 1936


14  .

Gertrude Kasebier, Portrait Miss N., 1903



Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, CA 1936



Manuel Alvarez Bravo, The Daughter of the Dancers, 1933



Margaret Bourke-White, Bread line during the Louisville Flood, Kentucky 1937



Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind Saint-Lazare Station, 1932



Paul Strand, The White Fence, Port Kent, NY 1916



Lewis Hine, An Adolescent Spinner, NC 1908



Alvin Langdon Coburn, Pittsburgh Smoke Stacks, 1910



Jerry Uelsmann, Untitled. 1982



Karl Blossfeldt, Balsamine Impatiens, 1915-1925




Man Ray, Tears, 1930



Andre Kertesz, Distortion No. 6, 1932



Edward Weston, Pepper No. 30, 1930

Pepper No. 30



Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jealousy, 1927



Roy DeCarava, Graduation, 1952



Weegee, The Critic, 1943



Duane Michals, A Letter from my Father, 1960/75



Diane Arbus, Puerto Rican woman with a Beauty Mark, New York City, 1965



Gordon Parks, Emerging Man, 1952



Aaron Siskind, Chicago, 1949



Arnold Newman, Igor Stravinsky. 1946



Harry Callahan, Eleanor, 1949



Minor White. Windowsill Daydreaming, 1958



Mary Ellen Mark, Lillie, Seattle from Series Streetwise 1983



Joel Peter Witkin, Still Life, Marseilles, 1992



Lee Friedlander, New York, 1963

Lee Friedlander, New York City, 1963



Bernd & Hilla Becher, Water Towers, 1980




Helen Levitt, Children, 1940

Helen Levitt



W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath Minamata, Japan 1972




Richard Avedon, Marilyn Monroe, NYC 1957



William Klein, Candy Store, Amsterdam Avenue, New York, 1954-55



Robert Frank, Fourth of July, Jay, New York, 1955

Fourth of July - Jay, New York, 1956



Garry Winogrand, Circle Line Ferry, 1971

Garry Winogrand. Circle Line Statue of Liberty Ferry, New York. 1971



Sebastiao Salgado, Refugees in the Korem Camp, Ethiopia, 1984

Refugees in the Korem camp



Sally Mann, Jessie at Five, 1987

Jessie at 5



William Eggleston, Huntsville, Alabama, 1971



Cindy Sherman, Untitled film still #56, 1980

%d bloggers like this: