Photo: A History From Behind the Lens
Break down the elements of photography in PHOTO, which takes an inside look at the creative process as it plays out between the imagined and the real. By examining the role of European and American pioneers, this 12-part series tracks the development of photography from its beginnings to more recent times. In the process, it shows that what may seem like an exercise in objectivity can instead be entirely subjective, the photograph itself little more than a blank page on which to write one's story. With elegance and insight, PHOTO shows how photographers go beyond documentary precision, endeavoring to interpret the world they live in rather than merely capturing it.
1. Surrealist Photography
In 1928, the surrealists' favorite photographer was a machine: the photo booth, an American invention that had recently arrived in Paris, making self-portraiture available to all. Through the manipulation of images, the search was on to find the surrealism hidden in reality itself.
2. The Primitives of Photography, 1850-1860
As photographers looked at the world with an artist's eye, photography became a new means to interpret reality.
3. The New German Objectivity
The Dusseldorf School of the 1960s sought to preserve the memory of a disappearing world as the industrial landscape began to change.
4. Staged Photography
To tell a story better, photographs were scripted, executed, and then assembled by computer. Reality became a construction process in which all were free to follow their own imaginations.
5. Press Usage
As photography escaped the rigidity of its rectangular format, magazines covered everything from the Dustbowl to New York nightlife to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. To avoid being overtaken by television, photography relied on unique images that created vivid memories.
Pictorialists responded to the nostalgia for hand-produced paintings and the rejection of art generated by machines.
7. New Vision: Experimental Photography of the 1920s
A wind of madness swept over European photography in the 1920s. Verticals and horizontals were abandoned, as were the rules of perspective handed down since the Renaissance. With its unexpected vantage points, the New Vision saw the diagonal as the axis of modernity.
8. Photographing Intimacy
The act of photographing one's private world affirmed the importance of a subjective point of view in images captured for the photographer's personal use. Taking the camera into places out of bounds to others made the rest of us voyeurs.
9. The Inventors
The breakthrough of daguerreotypes encouraged people to commission portraits, or "likenesses," as they were known. Because subjects had to pose for hours, few children featured in these early photographs. For the daguerreotype, the ideal portrait subject was a dead one.
10. Found Images
Most of the estimated 350 billion pictures taken since the beginning of photography in the early 19th century have no artistic merit or intent. But that hasn't stopped these so-called found photos from being used as raw material for new forms of photomontage.
11. Conceptual Photography
In the 1960s, the conceptual photography movement strived to express thoughts not with words, but with pictures.
12. After the Photo
Since the invention of the digital camera, photographers have both embraced and rejected the art of digital illusion. Some photographers "perfect" reality with photo manipulation software, while others distort images to heighten their unreality. Still others return to the simpler technology of pinhole cameras.