Healing the Madness

What progress has been made on the
Visualizing Photo History Projects?
"If there is horror, it is for those who speak indifferently of the next war. If there is hate, it is for the hateful qualities, not nations. If there is love, it is because this alone kept me alive." - Claude Cahun
Hans Bellmer, La Poupee, 1935 - 1937.










Woman on the Telephone

"Photography's long acknowledged power to mirror the face of the world was by no means abandoned, but in the 1920s and '30s a host of unconventional forms and techniques suddenly flourished. Abstract photograms, photomontages composed of fragmented images, the combination of photographs with modern typography and graphic design in posters and magazine pages - all were facets of what artist and theorist László Moholy-Nagy enthusiastically described as a "new vision" rooted in the technological culture of the twentieth century." - Metropolitan Museum
Aleksander Rodchenko, Woman at the Telephone, 1928.











The Lathe
Paul Strand, The Lathe, 1923.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Photogram, 1926.











Formalism = the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form - the way it is made, its purely visual aspects and its medium. Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context and content
Alfred Stieglitz, Hands, 1918.










Aleksander Rodchenko, Portrait of My Mother Reading, 1924.
Aleksander Rodchenko, Portrait of My Mother, shot in 1924, printed in 1950.












New Vision photographers practiced
"photographic photography"
New Vision elements:
  • Geometric compositions that approach abstraction
  • Use of the close-up and oblique points of view
  • Play with reflective surfaces to alter perception
  • Manipulation of light
Albert Renger-Patzsch, Echeoeria, 1922.










Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Scandinavia, 1930.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Merman, 1927











"One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again." - Rodchenko


Aleksander Rodchenko, Untitled (Walking Figure), 1928.











Florence Henri, Composition, 1932.











Clarence John Laughlin, The Fierce Eyed Building, 1939.
Ilsa Bing, Self-Portrait with Mirrors, 1928.











Revolutionary spirit of modern photography expressed in the 1929 Film Und Foto exhibition

Photographs declared the greatest of contemporary technological wonders because of its capacity to "be one of the most effective weapons against the mechanization of the spirit."
Some of the artists included:
Berencice Abbott
Herbert Bayer
Imogen Cunningham
John Heartfield
Florence Henri
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Paul Outerbridge
Man Ray
Albert Renger-Patzsch
Aleksander Rodchenko
Charles Sheeler
Edward Steichen
Edward Weston
Film und Foto International Exhibition poster. 1929.











Historic Context
1889 - 1910 Pictorialism
1912 Titanic sinks
1913 Armory Show in New York
1913 - 1933 German Weimar Republic
1914 - 1918 World War I
Over 37 million deaths
1916 - 1923 Dadaism
1917 - 1920 Russian Revolution
1922 Formation of the Soviet Union
Fascists under Mussolini seize power in Italy
1924 - 1940s Surrealism
1926 - 1953 Stalin gains control the Soviet Union
1929 Great Depression begins











Organized social reform movements in America that began during the late 19th century:
Woman's Suffrage Movement
Prohibition/ Temperance Movement
Public Education Reform Movement
Social documentary style emerged
in the 19th century in response to:
  • Popular social reform movements
  • Continued interest in recording wonders of the world
  • Availability and accessibility of the hand-held camera
Suffrage parade in New York City, May 6, 1912.











The New Woman

Frances Benjamin Johnston

Frances Benjamin Johnston, Self-Portrait, c. 1896.
Frances Benjamin Johnston, Self-Portrait with Bicycle, c. 1890.











Documentary photography at the turn of the 20th century began to look more like art photography.
Italian Ragpicker

Jacob Riis, Home of an Italian Ragpicker, New York, 1888.
Lewis Hine, Breaker Boys Working in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co., 1911.











muckraker = journalist who investigates and exposes societal issues

Jacob Riis, Bandits' Roost, New York, 1888.
Jacob Riis, NY Tenement, c. 1880s.











"Abuse is the normal condition of 'the Bend,' murder its everyday crop, with the tenants not always the criminals. In this block between Bayard, Park, Mulberry, and Baxter Streets, 'the Bend' proper, the late Tenement House Commission counted 155 deaths of children in a specimen year (1882). Their percentage of the total mortality in the block was 68.28, while for the whole city the proportion was only 46.20. The infant mortality in any city or place as compared with the whole number of deaths is justly considered a good barometer of its general sanitary condition. Here, in this tenement, No. 59 1/2, next to Bandits’ Roost, fourteen persons died that year, and eleven of them were children; in No. 61 eleven, and eight of them not yet five years old. According to the records in the Bureau of Vital Statistics only thirty-nine people lived in No. 59 1/2 in the year 1888, nine of them little children. There were five baby funerals in that house the same year. Out of the alley itself, No. 59, nine dead were carried in 1888, five in baby coffins." - from How the Other Half Lives
Jacob Riis, Tenement on Mulberry Street, c. 1880s.











Riis consistently argued that the
"poor were the victims rather than the makers of their fate"

Social Darwinism = belief that societies evolve like organisms and only the fit will survive, while the weak and unfit should be allowed to die and go extinct
  • An important aspect of this line of thinking was the belief that poverty was a just reward for sin
Social Uplift = belief that crime is an effect of poverty rather than its cause
Jacob Riis, Street Arabs, c. 1880s.











1907 government inquiry revealed that at least 1,750,178 children between 10 and 15 years old were working in US factories
In cotton mills, almost 50% of the workers were an average of 10 years old
Lewis Hine, Addie Card, Twelve Year Old Spinner in New England Mill, 1913.











Golden period of American news photography 1930s to 1950s
development of halftone printing methods in the 1930s

halftone = reprographic technique that simulates continuous tone imagery through the use of equally spaced dots of varying size.
  • allows for the printing of photographic image and text on the same surface with the same printing plate
telephotography = transmission of images via telephone











Dada = a nonsensical term used to define an international artistic and literary movement of the early 20th century.  Born of the widespread disillusionment engendered by World War I, it attacked conventional standards of aesthetics and behavior and stressed absurdity and the role of the unpredictable in artistic creation.

"While the thunder of guns rolled in the distance, we sang, painted, glued and composed for all our worth. We are seeking an art that would heal mankind from the madness of the age."
- Jean Arp
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Militarism, 1924. Photomontage.










The Bauhaus
1919 - 1933



Walter Gropius, Bauhaus Building, Dessau, Germany, 1925 - 1926.










Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bauhaus Balconies, 1926.











Hannah Höch organizes the photomontage into four quadrants:
  • Upper right = Anti Dada world
  • Lower right = The Great Dada World
  • Upper left = "Dada" springs from Einstein's head
  • Lower left = figure demands that the masses join Dada
Hannah Höch, Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany, 1919 - 1920.











Photomontage - a collage of separate photographs that is re-photographed so that the final image is converted back into a seemless photographic print

"The excess of Hell falls into the coffers of Pastor Klatt for innocent children of criminals."


Hanah Höch, Dada Dance, 1922.Photomontage.