America Darkly
Visualyzing Photo History infographics due on Scalar Monday!
Students who have emailed me that they would like to meet in class
will receive an email reminder over the weekend. We will meet in Moulton Center 213 on Monday!
Please submit your course evaluation on Canvas!
Helen Levitt, New York (baby carriage), c. 1940.
Diane Arbus, Jack Dracula at Bar, 1961.











Pre-War Aesthetic:
  • Previsualization
  • Documentary style
  • The decisive moment
  • Genius, individual photographer
Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley Clearing Winter Storm, 1942.











Post-War Aims:
  • Photographers wanted to go beyond
    commercial look of social realism
  • Exploration of the personal and the philosophical
  • Self-expression and experimentation
    rather than documentation
  • Elimination of the conventional
Aaron Siskind, Jerome, Arizona, 1949.











The Americans


Robert Frank, U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Trolley- New Orleans, 1955 - 1956.











Characteristics of images in The Americans:
  • Disregard for established photojournalistic standards
  • Private, unglamorous images
  • Use of blur, grain and movement
  • Sense of freedom
  • No sense of security
  • No decisive moment
  • No independent masterpieces (like The Steerage), the series functions best as a whole
Robert Frank, Jehova's Witness,
Los Angeles
, 1955 - 1956.











Covered Car
Car Accident

Robert Frank, Covered Car - Long Beach, CA,
1955 - 1956.

Robert Frank, Car Accident - U.S. 66, between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona, 1955 - 1956.











Public Park Ann Arbor Michigan
Robert Frank, Chicago, 1955 - 1956.
Robert Frank, Public Park- Ann Arbour, Michigan, 1955 - 1956.











Structuralism = philosophical approach that analyzes society by looking at cultural phenomena, particularly signs, that have hidden underlying meanings that can be decoded

Robert Frank, Ranch Market - Hollywood, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Rodeo- New York City, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Charleston, South Carolina, 1955 - 1956.











"Photography is a solitary journey. That is the only course open to the creative photographer. There is no compromise: Only a few photographers accept this fact. That is probably the reason why we have only a few really great photographers. In recent years camera journalism has become many people's definition of good photography. For me camera journalism means taste dictated by the magazines." - Robert Frank
Robert Frank, Indiannapolis, Indiana, 1955 - 1956.











John Szarkowski, Director of Photography
at Museum of Modern Art 1962 - 1991

Evans, Burroughs Kitchen, 1936

The Photographer's Eye, 1966
In 1990, U.S. News & World Report said, "Szarkowski's thinking, whether Americans know it or not, has become our thinking about photography."
  • Szarkowski argued that a photo should not look like a painting.
  • Instead, he thought that photography needed to "abandon its allegiance to traditional pictorial standards and be inventive in terms of inherent qualities with which photography was born whole."
Listed five characteristics unique to photography:
  • "the thing itself" - a photo is a picture, not the equivalent of reality
  • "the detail" - compelling clarity and isolation of a fragment of reality
  • "the frame" - the "central act of choosing and eliminating"
  • "the vantage point"
  • Insisted that "all photographs are time exposures, of shorter or longer duration"
Walker Evans, Kitchen in Floyd Burroughs' Home, 1936.