History of Photography
History of Photography
A World History of Photography
The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991
The new camera counts the stars and discovers a new planet sister
to our earth, it peers down a drop of water and discovers
microcosms. The camera searches out the texture of flower petals
and moth wings as well as the surface of concrete. It has things
to reveal about the curve of a girl's cheek and the internal
structure of steel.
Egmont Arens, 1939
IF ANY PERIOD can be said to have encompassed the full potential of
photography it would have to be the era between the two World Wars. Some
80 years after the medium first appeared, photographers and their patrons
discovered forms and uses for camera images that imbued them with
exceptional inventiveness and immediacy. Photography was not only enriched
by expanded roles in journalism, advertising, and publicity, but it was
nourished also by acceptance within avant-garde movements in the graphic
arts. In fact, it might with justice be claimed that except for holography
all later directions were foretold during this period. The extraordinary
vitality of the medium was apparent in many different localities—in
England, Erance, Central Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, and North
America—yet photographs also retained distinctive national
characteristics. This chapter will survey the range of experimentation and
explore the relationship of the "new vision," as it is sometimes called,
to other visual art of the time; Chapter 10 will be concerned with the
flowering of the medium in journalism, advertising, and book publication.
A distinguishing feature of the photography of the 1920s was the
emergence of a wide variety of techniques, styles, and approaches, all
displaying unusual vigor. Responding to greater economic opportunities in
the medium and involved in the intense intellectual, political, and
cultural ferment that followed the first World War, many photographers
became conscious of the effects of technology, urbanization, cinema, and
graphic art on camera expression. In addition to the "isms" of prewar
avant-garde art—especially Cubism—the aesthetic concepts associated with
Constructivism, Dadaism, and Surrealism inspired a climate of
experimentation, with photo-collage, montage, cameraless images,
nonobjective forms, unusual angles, and extreme close-ups marking the
photographic expression of the era. In common with other visual artists,
photographers also took note of Freudian and related theories of the
psyche and of the part that images might play in the social and political
struggles of the times.
In Europe the new vision was nurtured by the complex artistic and
social tendencies that emerged following the revolutionary uprisings at
the end of the first World War. Embodied in Russian Constructivism, the
German Bauhaus—a school of architecture and design—and the
Deutscbes Werkbund (German Work Alliance), these movements and
organizations viewed artistic expression as concerned with the analysis
and rational reconstruction of industrial society rather than as a means
of producing unique decorative objects based on personal feelings or
experiences for an elite class. With art activity conceived as a way to
improve the lives of ordinary people through the redesign of their
physical and mental environments, the artist emerged as an individual who
"remained true . . . to reality [in order] to reveal the true face of our
time."2 In the eyes of a significant number of artists, the various media
were no longer regarded as discrete entities; the applied arts were
considered as important as the "fine" arts of painting and sculpture; and
respect for machine technology led to a high regard for both printing
press and camera as the most effective visual instruments of the age.
Experimentation in Europe: Light Graphics
The developments that followed the end of the first World War had been
heralded earlier in the breakdown of conventional modes of artistic
expression. As the 1914-18 conflict raged in Europe, Dadaists urged that
the moribund art of the past be jettisoned; that new themes and new forms
be found to express the irrational nature of society. This attitude opened
fertile fields for all kinds of visual experimentation, including the
production of cameraless photographic images. It will be recalled that
"photogenic drawing"—Talbot's name for prints made by exposing real
objects placed directly on light-sensitive paper—actually had preceded
photography through the use of a camera. In updating this concept,
photographers of the new vision employed a variety of substances and light
sources to create nonreprescntational images. The earliest examples were
made in 1918 by Christian Schad, a German artist soon to become a leading
exponent of the New Objectivity in painting, who exposed chance
arrangements of found objects and waste materials—torn tickets, receipts,
rags—on photographic film (pi. no. 483); the results, baptized
Schadographs by the Dada leader Tristan Tzara, expressed the Dadaist
interest in making art from junk materials.
Independently, the American Man Ray (born Emmanuel Rudnitsky), a close
associate of Duchamp and Francis Picabia during their New York Dada
period, undertook similar experiments that the photographer called
Rayographs (pi. no. 484), a designation incorporating both his name and a
reference to their source in light. Made soon after Man Ray's arrival in
Paris in 1921, these cameraiess images were effected by arranging
translucent and opaque materials on photographic paper, at times actually
immersed in the developer during their exposure to moving or stationary
light sources. Indifferent to conventional distinctions between fine and
applied art yet devoted to the expression of intuitive states of being and
chance effects, Man Ray sought commercial as well as artistic outlets for
his extensive visual output that, besides Rayographs, included straight
photographs, paintings, collages, assemblages, and constructions.
Cameraiess images also were called photograms (pi. no. 485), the name
given the technique worked out together by Lucia Moholy and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
Originally from Czechoslovakia and Hungary, respectively, but active after
1923 at the Bauhaus in Germany, these two artists held that, like other
products produced by machine, photo-graphic images—cameraiess and
other—should not deal with conventional sentiments or personal feelings
but should be concerned with light and form. It is ironic that even though
they promoted photography as the most fitting visual form for the machine
age precisely because the camera image could be easily and exactly
replicated, photograms are unique examples for which no matrix exists for
duplication. Other Europeans who experimented with cameraiess imagery—or
light graphics, as this aspect of photography came to be called—include
Raoul Hausmann, Gyorgy Kepes, Kurt Schwitters, die Russians El Lissitzky
and Alexander Rodchenko, the Czech artist Jaromir Funke, and Curtis
Moffat, an English assistant to Man Ray. For reasons to be discussed
presently, interest in this form of expression did not develop in the
United States until after the Bauhaus relocated in Chicago in 1938 as the
Institute of Design.
483. CHRISTIAN SCHAD. Schadograpb, 1918.
Gelatin silver print. Edward L. Bafford Photography Collection, Albin O.
Kuhn Library and Gallery,
University of Man-land, Baltimore. Courtesy Mrs. Christian Schad.
CHRISTIAN SCHAD. Amourette. 1918
484. MAN RAY. Untitled (Wire Spiral and Smoke), 1923.
Gelatin silver print. Private Collection, New York.
MAN RAY (see collection)
(b Philadelphia, PA, 25 Aug 1890; d Paris, 18 Nov 1976).
American photographer and painter. He was brought up in New York, and he
adopted the pseudonym Man Ray as early as 1909. He was one of the leading
spirits of DADA and SURREALISM and the only American artist to play a
prominent role in the launching of those two influential movements.
Throughout the 1910s he was involved with avant-garde activities that
prefigured the Dada movement. After attending drawing classes supervised by
Robert Henri and George Bellows at the Francisco Ferrer Social Center, or
Modern School, he lived for a time in the art colony of Ridgefield, NJ,
where he designed, illustrated and produced several small press pamphlets,
such as the Ridgefield Gazook, published in 1915, and A Book of
Noire et blanche, 1926
485. LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY. Photqgram.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Gift of Mr. and Mrs.
LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY (see collection)
Collage and Montage
In Europe, an even more fertile field for experimentation involved
collage and montage—techniques whose terms sometimes are used
interchangeably. The former (from the French colter, to glue) describes a
recombination of already existing visual materials effected by pasting
them Together on a nonsensitized support and, if desired, re-photographing
the result (pi. no. 486). Montage refers to the combining of camera images
on film or photographic paper in the darkroom (pi. no. 487). The creation
of a new visual entity from existing materials appealed to avantgarde
artists in part because it was a technique employed by naive persons to
create pictures—a folkcraft, so-to-speak —and in part because it used
mass-produced images and therefore did not carry the aura of an elitist
activity. These artists also felt that the juxtaposition of unlikely
materials might serve to arouse feelings in the spectator that
conventional photographic views no longer had the power to evoke. Besides,
collage and montage promised to be extremely malleable—amenable to the
expression of both political concerns and private dreams. Constructivists
in the Soviet Union, who regarded the visual arts as a meansto serve
revolutionary ideals, hailed collage and montage as a means to embody
social and political messages in an unhackneyed way, while for artists
involved with personal fantasies these techniques served to evoke witty,
mysterious, or inexplicable dimensions. Still other individuals, inspired
by the aesthetic elements of Cubism, used these techniques to control
texture, form, and tonality to achieve nuanccd formal effects.
Although a number of artists have claimed to be inventors of montage,
as with cameraless photography it was an old idea whose time had come.
Hausmann, painter, poet, and editor of a Dada journal, was one of its
earliest partisans, realizing in the summer of 1918, as he later recalled,
"that it is possible to create pictures out of cut-up photographs."
Needing a name for the process, he, along with artists George Grosz,
Helmut Herzfelde (who later renamed himself John Heartfield), and Hannah
Hoch, selected photomontage as a term that implies an image "engineered"
rather than "created." To these originators, montage seemed to reflect
"the chaos of war and revolution," visible in Hausmann's preoccupation
with savagery and irrationality and in Hoch's expressions of socially
generated fantasies. A strong political component characterizes the work
of Heartfield (pi. no. 488), who was initially a Dadaist and was pictured
by his colleague Grosz as the quintessential photomontagist, or "Dada
Monteur," of the era (pi. no. 489).
Photographers in Italy found montage a versatile technique with which
to express "spiritual dynamism," the term they used to describe their
interest in urbanism, energy, and movement that had emerged in the wake of
the Futurist Manifesto of 1908. Then, the brothers Anton Giulio and Arturo
Bragaglia (among others) had incorporated the scientific experiments of
Marey into what they called "Photodynamks," making multiple exposures on a
single plate (pi. no. 490) to suggest a world in flux. After World War I,
Italian modernists, among them Vincio Paladini and Wanda Wulz, continued
in this vein, combining printed and pasted materials in two and three
dimensions with multiple exposures.
Montage found favor in the Soviet Union during the 1920s as an
instrument for revealing what was termed "documentary truth." Instead of
relying on conventional time-consuming modes of graphic representation,
Constructivists, notably Lissitzky and Rodchenko, sought to awaken
working-class viewers to the meaning of contemporary socialist existence
by utilizing photographs and text in visual messages (pi. no. 491). Like
their counterparts in Russian Him (then considered the most advanced of
the era), they were convinced that montage—which they called "deformation"
of the photograph—and straight camera images taken extremely close to the
subject or from unusual angles could communicate new realities.
Toward the end of the 1920s, true photographic montage, effected on
light-sensitive materials rather than by cutting and pasting, became more
commonplace and was sometimes combined with other darkroom manipulations
such as solarization. Owing to its flexibility, montage could be
structured to serve different stylistic and thematic ends—personal as
well as political. To cite only a few examples, Anton Stankowski, working
in Germany, explored an enigmatic psychological component in Eye-Montage
(pi. no. 492) of 1927; the Czech photographer Karel Teige embraced a
similar theme in a 1937 cover for a Surrealist journal (pi. no. 493); and
Man Ray's ironic wit is seen in the oft-reproduced Violon d'lngres (pi.
no. 494). Socially oriented concerns were expressed by Alice Lex-Nerlinger,
part of a German husband and wife team, in Seamstress (pl. no. 495) of
1930. Incidentally, the themes of eye, hand, and work visible in several
of these images engaged many photographers of the period whether they
worked with montage or straight images. The eye obviously can be taken as
a symbol for camera or photographer, while the combined emphasis on all of
these elements suggest that camera work was seen as the result of both
craft and vision, a concept embodied in the theories and programs of
Constructivism, the Bauhaus, and the Werkbund.
486. HANNAH HOCH. The Cut of the Kitchen Knife, 1919.
Montage. National galerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz,
see also collection:
487. RAOUL HAUSMANN. Mechanical Toys, 1957.
Gelatin silver print; double exposure of two photographs showing
Dadaist sculpture Mechaniscber Kopf, 1919. Schirmer/Mosel, Munich.
(b Vienna, 12 July 1886; d Limoges, 1 Feb 1971).
Austrian photomontagist, painter, photographer, printmaker, writer and theorist. He
trained in the academic artistic tradition under his father, Victor
Hausmann (1859–1920). In 1900 he went to Berlin, where he later became a
central figure in Dada. His important friendship with the eccentric
architect and mystical artist Johannes Baader (1875–1956) began in 1905.
In the first years of the next decade he was associated with such artists
as Erich Heckel and Ludwig Meidner and produced numerous paintings,
including Blue Nude (1916; Rochechouart, Mus. Dépt.), and woodcuts,
several of which were published in his book Material der Malerei
Plastik Architektur (Berlin, 1918). These works blended Expressionism
with the influences of artists then exhibiting at Herwarth Walden’s Sturm-Galerie:
Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay,
Arthur Segal and others. Around 1915 his widening contacts with the
writers Salomon Friedländer and Franz Jung led to innumerable theoretical
and satirical writings that were published in Der Sturm, Die
Aktion, Die freie Strasse and other magazines of the era.
Hausmann’s views reflected a diversity of influences ranging from
biologist Ernst Haeckel and psychologist Otto Gross, to Nietzsche and
Henri Bergson, to Eastern philosophers including Laozi, and to such
anarchists as Max Stirner. In 1915 he also met Hans Richter and Hannah
Höch; Höch became Hausmann’s close companion until 1922. By 1917 he was
associated with Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield and
Wieland Herzfelde, who together formed the nucleus of Dada in Berlin
RAOUL HAUSMANN. Nude, Vera Broido
488. JOHN HEARTFIELD. Adolf the Superman; He Eats Gold and Spews
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Mrs. Gertrud Heartfield, Berlin.
(b Berlin, 19 June 1891; d Berlin, 26 April 1968).
German photomontagist, draughtsman, typographer and stage designer. After a
difficult childhood owing to the persecution of his father for his
political beliefs, he studied art at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule in
Munich from 1907 to 1911, specializing in poster design. In 1912 he took
his first job in a printing works in Mannheim, moving to Berlin in 1913,
where he and his brother Wieland Herzfelde made contact with avant-garde
circles. Heartfield’s experiences in World War I led him to conclude that
the only worthy art was that which took account of social realities. He
destroyed all his early work.
see also collection:
JOHN HEARTFIELD. Dialogue
at the Berlin Zoo,
489. GEORGE GROSZ. The Engineer Heartfield (Dada Monteur), 1920.
Watercolor and collage of pasted postcard and halftone.
Museum of Modern Art, New York; Gift of A. Conger Goodyear.
see also collection:
490. ANTON GIULIO and ARTURO BRAGAGLIA. The Smoker, 1913.
Gelatin silver print. Weston Gallery, Inc., Carmel, Cal.
491. ALEXANDER RODCHENKO. Montage, c. 1923.
Gelatin silver print. Sovfoto Magazine and VAAP, MOSCOW.
(b St Petersburg, 23 Nov 1891; d Moscow, 3 Dec 1956).
Russian painter, sculptor, designer and photographer. He was a central
exponent of Russian Constructivism, owing much to the pre-Revolutionary
work of Malevich and Tatlin, and he was closely involved in the cultural
debates and experiments that followed the Revolution of 1917. In 1921 he
denounced, on ideological grounds, easel painting and fine art, and he
became an exponent of Productivism (CONSTRUCTIVISM) in many fields,
including poster design, furniture, photography and film. He resumed
painting in his later years. His work was characterized by the systematic
way in which from 1916 he sought to reject the conventional roles of
self-expression, personal handling of the medium and tasteful or aesthetic
predilections. His early nihilism and condemnation of the concept of art
make it problematic even to refer to Rodchenko as an artist: in this
respect his development was comparable to that of Dada, although it also
had roots in the anarchic activities of Russian Futurist groups.
About This (Pro eto),
by Vladimir Mayakovsky,
492. ANTON STANKOWSKI. Eye-Montage, 1927.
Gelatin silver print. Prakapas Gallery, Bronxville, N.Y.
ANTON STANKOWSKI (see collection)
the free encyclopedia)
Stankowski (June 18, 1906 - December 11, 1998) was a German graphic
designer, photographer and painter. He developed an original Theory of
Design and pioneered Constructive Graphic Art. Typical Stankowski designs
attempt to illustrate processes or behaviours rather than objects. Such
experiments resulted in the use of fractal-like structures long before
their popularisation by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975.
Anton Stankowski was born in Gelsenkirchen, Westphalia. Before embarking
on the profession of graphic designer, Stankowski worked as a decorator
and church painter. In 1927 he attended the Folkwang Academy with fellow
photographer, Max Burchartz.
Stankowski's work is noted for straddling the camps of fine and applied
arts by synthesising information and creative impulse. He was inspired by
the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Malevich and
Kandinsky. Stankowski advocated graphic design as a field of pictorial
creation that requires collaboration with free artists and scientists.
Despite producing many unique examples of concrete art and photo-graphics,
Stankowski is best known for designing the simple trademark of the
By 1980, Stankowski had produced a volume of trademarks for clients in
Germany and Switzerland. In 1983, he established the Stankowski Foundation
to award others for bridging the domains of fine and applied art.
Following his death in December 1998, the German Artist Federation awarded
Anton Stankowski the honorary Harry Graf Kessler Award for his life work.
493. KAREL TEIGE. Untitled, 1937. Montage.
Collection Jaroslav Andel,
KAREL TEIGE (see collection)
the free encyclopedia)
Karel Teige (December 13, 1900 – October 1, 1951) was the
major figure of the Czech avant-garde movement Devetsil (Nine Forces) in
the 1920s, a graphic artist, photographer, and typographer. Teige also
worked as an editor and graphic designer for Devětsil's monthly magazine
ReD (Revue Devetsilu).
With evidently endless energy, Teige introduced modern art to Prague.
Devetsil-sponsored exhibitions and events brought international
avant-garde figures like Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Paul Klee, Vladimir
Mayakovsky, and Walter Gropius, among many others, to lecture and perform
in Prague. Teige interpreted their work, sometimes literally, for the
Czech audience. In his 1935 Prague lecture, André Breton paid tribute to
his "perfect intellectual fellowship" with Teige and Nezval: "Constantly
interpreted by Teige in the most lively way, made to undergo an
all-powerful lyric thrust by Nezval, Surrealism can flatter itself that it
has blossomed in Prague as it has in Paris."
Although not an architect, Teige was an articulate and knowledgeable
architecture critic, an active participant in CIAM, and friends with
Hannes Meyer, the second director of the Bauhaus. Teige and Meyer both
believed in a scientific, functionalist approach to architecture, grounded
in Marxist principles. In 1929 he famously criticized Le Corbusier's
Mundaneum project (planned for Geneva but never built) on the grounds that
Corbusier had departed from rational functionalism, and was on his way to
becoming a mere stylist. Teige believed that 'the only aim and scope of
modern architecture is the scientific solution of exact tasks of rational
After welcoming the Soviet army as liberators, Teige was silenced by the
Communist government in 1948. In 1951 he died of a heart attack, said to
be a result of a ferocious Soviet press campaign against him as a
'Trotskyite degenerate,' his papers were destroyed by the secret police,
and his published work was suppressed for decades.
Collage Number 128
494. MAN RAY. Violon d'Ingres, 1924.
Gelatin silver print. Savage
Collection, Princeton, N.J.
495. ALICE LEX-NERLINGER. Seamstress, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago; Julien Lew Collection,
Gift of Jean and Julien Levy, 1975.