History of Photography


History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 8










to 1946


The Portrait as Social Document

In the United States, these changes were reflected not only in the direction taken by aesthetic photographers but in the images appearing in the periodical press, which joined with the new institution of advertising to project an image of the nation as an energetic titan ruled by rational industrial forces (see Chapter 10). Few photographers other than Hine regarded working people as the source of industrial wealth, and even his emphasis shifted from documenting "negative" factors such as exploitation and boredom to portraying the "positive" contributions made by individual men and women in industry. In his "Work Portraits," which appeared sporadically in industrial trade journals during the 1920s, he attempted to bring out the human component in industry through facial close-ups and by relating the forms of worker and machine (pi. no. 446), an endeavor that culminated in the documentation of the construction of the Empire State Building in 1930 and 1931.

Owing to the emphasis in Europe on political action rather than social reform, European photographers during the first decades of the 20th century were not given the opportunity to produce social documentation in the manner of Riis or Hine. Nevertheless, as individuals, Emil O. Hoppe, Helmar Lerski, and August Sander (see Profile) sought to create, in Sander's word, an "honest'" document of an age through portraits that presumably would awaken the viewer to the character of different classes and occupations in society. Of the three, Hoppe, who opened a studio in London in 1907 after leaving Germany, actually was a commercial photographer of taste and discernment who undertook to photograph women workers (pi. no. 444) and became adept at reusing these images in a variety of contexts in publication and advertising work. Lerski, born in Strasbourg and trained as an actor, spent many years in the United States, where he became interested in photography about 1911. Theatrical lighting effects and large-scale facial close-ups that entirely fill the picture space (pi. no. 445) characterize his attempt to create a sociopsychological portrait of people in a variety of occupations, which he published in Germany in 1931 as Kopfe des Alltags (Ordinary Faces).

444. EMIL O. HOPPE. Flower Seller, 1921.
Gelatin silver print. The E. O. Hoppe Curatorial Assistance Trust, Los Angeles.

445. HELMAR LERSKI. German Metal Worker, 1930.
Gelatin silver print. Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.

446. LEWIS W. HINE. Powerhouse Mechanic, 1925.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

LEWIS HINE  (see collection)

see also: Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

The towering figure in this kind of documentation through portraiture is Sander. From 1910 until he was censured by the Nazi regime in 1934, he made beautifully lighted and composed images of individuals and groups from all professions and classes in Germany (pi. no. 447). The clarity and directness with which he approached social portraiture connect his work with both 19th-century Realist painting and the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) style that emerged in German visual art in the 1920s. Individually and as an aggregate his images are infused with an ironic dimension that suggests the entrenched role of stratified social hierarchies in the Germany of his time. Sander's project culminated in 1929 in the publication of Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), in which only a small number of the more than 500 images initially envisioned for this work were reproduced. The book was later banned in part because the images showed Germans to be gready more varied in facial characteristics and temperament than the official mythology decreed.

No American photographer of the time attempted such a vast project dealing with portraiture of all sectors of society. Of the few who were attracted to "everyday" faces, Hine limited himself to portraits of skilled industrial workers, while Doris Ulmann, a sophisticated New York portraitist trained at the Clarence White School, sought to document the rural population of the Southern highlands and plains in a style that invokes Pictorialist ideas as much as social documentation (pi. no. 393). Inspired by the revived interest in rural customs and handicraft as a way of preserving America's pre-industrial heritage, her portraits, made in natural light with a large-format view camera and soft-focus lens, embody the photographer's conviction that simplicity and closeness to the soil were of greater moment than progress.

A similar idea about the independent character of rural folk can be seen in The Boss (pi. no. 392), an image by Prentice Hall Polk, photographer for Tuskeegee Institute, that verges on being an idealized genre type rather than a document of social reality. Indeed, even commercial portrait photographers in the 20th century were sometimes in a position to provide a sociological document of the people among whom they lived. One thinks of James Van Der Zee, whose images of Harlem's middle- and upper-class citizens (pi. no. 322) are poignant testimony to their aspirations. A similar view into the social structure of a provincial society can be seen in the work of the Peruvian portraitist Martin Chambi, a pioneer of the photo postcard in his own country. In the careful attention to details of dress and ambience, his individual and group portraits made in a studio in Cuzco or in remote highlands during the 1930s not only reveal the sitters' physical features but also suggest social hierarchies (pi, no. 448).

447. AUGUST SANDER. Pastry Cook Cologne, 1928.
Gelatin silver print. Sander Gallery, New York

  (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

August Sander (17 November 1876 in Herdorf, Germany; † 20 April 1964 in Cologne) was a German portrait and documentary photographer.
Sander was the son of a carpenter working in the mining industry. While working at a local mine, Sander first learned about photography by assisting a photographer who was working for a mining company. With financial support from his uncle, he bought photographic equipment and set up his own darkroom.
He spent his military service (1897 – 1899) as a photographer's assistant, and the next years wandering across Germany. In 1901, he started working for a photo studio in Linz, eventually becoming a partner (1902), and then its sole proprietor (1904). He left Linz at the end of 1909 and set up a new studio in Cologne.
In the early 1920s, Sander joined the "Group of Progressive Artists" in Cologne and began plans to document contemporary society in a portrait series. In 1927, Sander and writer Ludwig Mathar traveled through Sardinia for three months, where he took around 500 photographs. However, a planned book detailing his travels was not completed.
Sander's first book Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century. Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers' Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Sander's book Face of our Time was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. Around 1942, during World War II, he left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid.

see also: August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914


AUGUST SANDER. Young Farmers


448. MARTI'N CHAMBI Festival in Ayaviri, Puno, 1940.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Edward Ranney, New Mexico, and the Martin Chambi Family, Peru.

Social Photography During the Depression

The documentary movement was born afresh in the United States in the 1930s. As William Stott has pointed out in his study of the period, the motive force was the "invisible nature" of the economic and social catastrophe known as the Great Depression. Lasting about ten years, from 1931 until American entry into the second World War, 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 arable land. The upheaval, both urban and rural, moved the Federal government under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal to relieve the suffering of "one third of a nation" by providing resettlement loans to farmers and work programs for the urban unemployed.

The most completely realized photography project of the period—one of a number sponsored by government agencies—was undertaken by the Historic Section of the Resettlement Administration, later the Farm Security Administration or F.S.A. (see Profile). The project represented the New Deal's 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 permanently from the land, was required to justify Federal 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 Federally sponsored cultural endeavors in that all originated from the practical necessity of providing jobs and recording the effects of relief and re-construction programs. Besides the immediate relief they offered those on their payroll, they were influential in directing interest to the American scene and reviving a taste for realistic representation in the visual arts; as a result, in the United States the realist style enjoyed a brief period of coexistence with more formally conceived modes of expression derived from European modernist movements.

The patronage of the R.A./F.S.A. in particular exerted a bracing effect on social- documentary style because the Section Director, Roy E. Stryker, a brilliant if somewhat narrowly focused propagandist (pi. no. 449) and the photographers not only recognized the need for evoking compassion, but possessed a fresh eye and a high regard for their craft. Another factor in the exceptional caliber of this project, which produced some 270,000 images, was the variety of artistic approaches employed by the individual photographers. For example, Ben Shahn, who worked with a 35mm camera, directed Stryker's attention to the human element as a source of emotional appeal; Dorothea Lange, who worked with a Rollei, upheld the need for the photographer to exercise control over the negatives, while Walker Evans, using an 8 x 10 inch view camera, insisted on the right to realize his own particular concept of documentation.

In common with other government agencies that embraced photographic projects, the F.S.A. supplied prints for reproduction in the daily and periodical press. In that project photographers were given shooting scripts from which to work, did not own their negatives, and had no control over how the pictures might be cropped, arranged, and captioned, their position was similar to that of photojournalists working For the commercial press—a situation that both Evans and Lange found particularly distasteful. The images were Transformed into photographic works of art when they were exhibited under the auspices of the Museum of Modern Art. For the first time, photographs made to document social conditions were accorded the kind of recognition formerly reserved for aesthetically conceived camera images.

The F.S.A. 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 nonetheless affected by them. Further-more, the impact of the Great Depression on rural communities has been perceived by later generations on the basis of certain key images. Arthur Rothstein's Dust Storm, Cimarron County (pi. no. 450) and Lange's Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (pi. no. 451) arc die most famous icons of the time—the latter selected by Stryker as the picture to symbolize the concern of the government for displaced farmers—but it is the sum of the images that creates their force.

Few other officially sanctioned projects that dealt with rural themes used photography as successfully as the F.S.A., but both this and other New Deal efforts opened opportunities for African-American male photographers. The best known of this group, Gordon Parks (pi. no. 692), went on to tame in photojournalism and film; others, among them Robert McNeill and James Stephen Wright, found niches in picture agencies. Women, too, were included in the New Deal projects; besides Lange, Marion Post Wolcott toured the country for the F.S.A., and other agencies employed Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, and Martha McMillan Roberts. An effort by the writer Erskine Caldwell and die industrial-photographer-turned-photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White resulted in You Have Seen Their Faces, an influential amalgam of text and image. It contained dramatic close-ups of Southern tenant-farm families (pi. no. 452) that were offset by a relatively reserved text based on inter-views and documentation of the conditions of farm tenancy. This inexpensive paperback revivified the form established by earlier social-reform tracts and helped prepare the way for the profusion of post-World War II photographic books on a wide spectrum of social issues.

449. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Arthur Rothstein and Roy Stryker, 1941.
Gelatin silver print. Formerly collection Arthur Rothstein, New York.

450. ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN. Dust Storm, Cimarron County, 1937.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

451. DOROTHEA LANGE. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936.
Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

  (see collection)

(May 25, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

see also: Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California

Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California


452. MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE. Two Women, Lansdale, Arkansas, 1936.
Gelatin silver print. George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.

  (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Margaret Bourke-White (1904 – 1971) was an American photographer and photojournalist.
Bourke-White was born in the Bronx, New York, to Joseph White (who came from an Orthodox Jewish family) and Minnie Bourke, the daughter of an Irish ship's carpenter and an English cook; she was a Protestant. She grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey (in a neighborhood now part of Middlesex), but graduated from Plainfield High School. Her father was a naturalist, engineer and inventor. His work improved the four-color printing process that is used for books and magazines. Her mother, Minnie Bourke, was a "resourceful homemaker." Margaret learned from her father perfection, from her mother, the unabashed desire for self-improvement." Margaret's success was not a family fluke. Her older sister, Ruth White, was well known for her work at the American Bar Association in Chicago, Ill., and her younger brother Roger Bourke White became a prominent Cleveland businessman and high-tech industry founder.
In 1922, she began studying herpetology at Columbia University, where she developed an interest in photography after studying under Clarence White (no relation). In 1925, she married Everett Chapman, but the couple divorced two years later. After switching colleges several times (University of Michigan, where she became a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority; Purdue University in Indiana, and Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio), Bourke-White enrolled at Cornell University, lived in Risley Hall, and graduated in 1927. A year later, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she started a commercial photography studio and did architectural and industrial photography. One of her clients was Otis Steel Company.
Margaret's success was due to both her people skills and her technical skills. Her experience at Otis is a good example. As she explains in Portrait of Myself, the Otis security people were reluctant to let her shoot for many reasons: First, steel making was a defense industry, so they wanted to be sure national security was not affected. Second, she was a woman and in those days people wondered if a woman and her delicate cameras could stand up to the intense heat, hazard, and generally dirty and gritty conditions inside a steel mill. When she got permission, the technical problems began. Black and white film in that era was sensitive to blue light, not the reds and oranges of hot steel -- she could see the beauty, but the pictures were coming out all black. She solved this problem by bringing along a new style of magnesium flare (which produces white light) and having assistants hold them to light her scenes. The result of her being able to work well with both people and technology resulted in some of the best steel factory pictures of that era, and these pictures earned her national attention.
In 1929, she accepted a job as associate editor of Fortune magazine. In 1930, she became the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. She was hired by Henry Luce as the first female photojournalist for Life magazine.
Her photographs of the construction of the Fort Peck Dam were featured in Life's first issue, dated November 23, 1936, including the cover. This cover photograph became such an iconic image that it was featured as the 1930s representative to the United States Postal Service's Celebrate the Century series of commemorative postage stamps. "Although Bourke-White titled the photo, 'New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam,' it is actually a photo of the spillway located three miles east of the dam," according to a United States Army Corps of Engineers Web page.
During the mid-1930s, Bourke-White, like Dorothea Lange, photographed drought victims of the Dust Bowl. Bourke-White and novelist Erskine Caldwell were married from 1939 to 1942, and together they collaborated on You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), a book about conditions in the South during the Great Depression.
She also traveled to Europe to record how Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were faring under Nazism and how Russia was faring under Communism. While in Russia, she photographed a rare "smiling Stalin" while in Moscow, and Stalin's grandmother when visiting Georgia. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent and the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II. In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression. She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded. Taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.
As the war progressed, she was attached to the U.S. army air force in North Africa, then to the U.S. Army in Italy and later Germany. She repeatedly came under fire in Italy in areas of fierce fighting.
"The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as 'Maggie the Indestructible.'" This incident in the Mediterranean refers to the sinking of the England-Africa bound British troopship SS Strathallan which she recorded in an article "Women in Lifeboats", in Life, February 22, 1943.
In the spring of 1945, she traveled through a collapsing Germany with General George S. Patton. In this period, she arrived at Buchenwald, the notorious concentration camp. She is quoted as saying, "Using a camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me." After the war, she produced a book entitled Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, a project that helped her come to grips with the brutality she had witnessed during and after the war.
"To many who got in the way of a Bourke-White photograph — and that included not just bureaucrats and functionaries but professional colleagues like assistants, reporters, and other photographers — she was regarded as imperious, calculating, and insensitive."
She had a knack for being at the right place at the right time: She interviewed and photographed Mohandas K. Gandhi just few hours before his assassination. Eisenstaedt, her friend and colleague, said one of her strengths was that there was no assignment and no picture that was unimportant to her. She also started the first photo lab at Life.Bourke-White is known equally well in both India and Pakistan for her photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel and Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, upright in a chair.
The photojournalist also was "one of the most effective chroniclers" of the violence that erupted at the independence and partition of India and Pakistan, according to Somini Sengupta, the writer of an arts section of the New York Times. Sengupta called Bourke-White's photographs of the episode "gut-wrenching, and staring at them, you glimpse the photographer's undaunted desire to stare down horror." The photographer recorded streets littered with corpses, dead victims with open eyes, refugees with vacant eyes. "Bourke-White's photographs seem to scream on the page," Sengupta wrote. The pictures were taken just two years after Bourke-White photographed the newly captured Buchenwald.
Sixty-six of Bourke-White's photographs of the partition violence were included in a 2006 reissue of Khushwant Singh's 1956 novel about the disruption, Train to Pakistan. In connection with the reissue, many of the photographs in the book were displayed at "the posh shopping center Khan Market" in Delhi, India. "More astonishing than the images blown up large as life was the number of shoppers who seemed not to register them," Sengupta wrote. No memorial to the partition victims exists in India, according to Pramod Kapoor, head of Roli, the Indian publishing house coming out with the new book.Margaret also recorded the Korean War. There, rather than spend time at the front, she concentrated on the Chiri Mountain area in the south of Korea. She spent her time there because there was a behind-the-lines guerrilla war being fought in the area, and the human drama of the conflict was more evident.
During the 1950s, Bourke-White was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. She had just turned 50 when she had to slow her career to fight off the disease, initially with physical therapy, then with brain surgery in 1959 and 1961.
She wrote her autobiography, Portrait of Myself, which was published in 1963 and became a best seller, but she grew increasingly infirm and increasingly became more isolated in her home in Darien, Connecticut. Her living room there "was wallpapered in one huge, floor-to-ceiling, perfectly-stitched-together black-and-white photograph of an evergreen forest that she had shot in Czechoslovakia in 1938." A pension plan set up in the 1950s "though generous for that time" no longer covered her health-care costs. She also suffered financially from her personal generosity and "less-than-responsible attendant care."
She died in Connecticut, aged 67.

MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE. Bread Line during the Louisville flood, Kentucky, 1937


The urban experience during the Depression was photographed under the banners of the Federal Art Project and the Works Progress Administration, and by a group of socially committed photographers who formed the Film and Photo League, from which the Photo League (to be discussed shortly) emerged in 1936. The most fully realized project was a documentation of New York City initiated by Berenice Abbott. On the basis of her experiences as a photographer 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."26 In Abbott's vision, Changing New York, as the project came to be called, was meant to evoke "an intuition of past, present and future," and to include, besides single images, series of related pictures supported by texts. With its strong contrast between the heavy geometrical curves of the buildings and the narrow shaft of light representing the sky, Cedar Street from William Street (pi. no. 453), one of a number of views that suggest something of the stable commercial underpinnings of the city, is typical of the resonant clarity of the photographs she made for the project (see also pi. no. 454). Documentation of the urban scene from the point of view of the political left became an issue toward the end of the 1920s when photographers in Europe especially felt moved to deal with unemployment and the rising strength of the working class. However, the aims of those involved in what came to be known as the worker-photographer movement differed significantly from the reformist goals of social documentarians like Riis and Hine. Instead of images meant to provide middle-class viewers with evidence of the need to improve conditions, photographs by participants in the worker-photographer organizations were intended to make other working people conscious of their conditions and their political strengths. European photographers of the left took their cue from social and stylistic developments in the Soviet Union (see Chapter 9), exhibiting camera images in places where working people congregated and reproducing them in the leftist press. For example, Der Arbeiter-Fotoqraf (The Worker-Photographer), a publication of the German worker-photographer movement, promoted the camera as a "weapon" in an ideological struggle, claiming that a "proletarian eye was essential for capturing a world invisible to the more privileged." That this outlook did not interfere with the expression of a poetic vision can be seen in images made by Walter Ball-hause, a working-class activist who used a Leica camera in the early 1930s to portray the unemployed, the elderly, and the children of the poor in Hannover (pi. no. 455). In the singular gesture of the child, anchored within a symmetrical and barren urbanscape, one senses the pervading uneasiness of the time. With politically oriented photographers most active in Eastern Europe, the style of leftist imagery was varied; indeed a Czech publication of 1934—Socialni fotoqgrafie (Social Photography)—specifically discussed the integration of avant-garde visual ideas and leftist political ideology. Images with strong political content were shown in two large international exhibitions held in Prague in 1933 and 1934, in which photographers from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Holland, and France participated.

Motivated less by political ideology than by a sense of impending catastrophe, Roman Vishniac, living in Berlin as a refugee from the Soviet Union where he had been trained in the biological sciences, produced an extensive documentation of Eastern European Jews in Poland on the eve of the Holocaust. Photographed on the streets and indoors, his subjects generally were unaware of being filmed, a circumstance that lends a vitality to this document of some 5,000 images, of which Entrance to the Ghetto, Cracow (pi. no. 456) is one; they are made especially poignant by our knowledge today that everything—people, places, traditions—has vanished (see also pi. no. 457).

The worker-photographer movement had fleeting successes in England, where concern for the problems of the under-class was prompted more by personal sympathy than by class-conscious considerations. The well-known English photographer Humphrey Spender, employed as a photographer for the London Daily Mail, in 1937-38 participated in a project called "Mass-Observation," which was designed to be an absolutely "objective documentation," in the manner of an anthropological study, of life in the mill towns of the industrial north (pl. no. 458), Bill Brandt, initially attracted to Surrealism, returned to his British homeland in 1931 to depict the divisions between social classes in London as well as working-class life in mining villages. The long, bleak vista and inhospitable structures that all but engulf the tiny figures in Halifax (pi. no. 459) seem to symbolize the enduring human spirit that is all but crushed by poverty and industrialism.

453. BERENICE ABBOTT. Cedar Street from William Street, New York, 1939.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.

  (see collection)

(July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991)

American photographer. She spent a term at the Ohio State University in Columbus (1917–18) and then studied sculpture independently in New York (1918–21) where she met Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. She left the USA for Paris in 1921 where she studied at the Acadйmie de la Grande Chaumiиre before attending the Kunstschule in Berlin for less than a year in 1923. From 1924 to 1926 she worked as Man Ray’s assistant and first saw photographs by Eugиne Atget in Man Ray’s studio in 1925. Her first one-woman show, at the gallery Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris in 1926, was devoted to portraits of avant-garde personalities such as Jean Cocteau, James Joyce and Andrй Gide. She continued to take portraits until leaving Paris in 1929, such as that of James Joyce (1927; see Berenice Abbott: Photographs, p. 26). After Atget’s death (1927) she bought most of his negatives and prints in 1928, and in 1929 she returned to New York. There she began a series of documentary photographs of the city and 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. The images in Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday (1949) were motivated by a similar spirit. She also took various portrait photographs in the 1930s and 1940s, such as that of Max Ernst (1941).

454. BERENICE ABBOTT. New York at Night, 1933.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stephen R. Currier Memorial Fund.

455. WALTER BALLHAUSE. Unfitted, 1930-33. From the series Kinder in der Grossstadt (City Children).
Gelatin silver print. Schirmer/Mosel, Munich.

456. ROMAN VISHNIAC. Entrance to the Ghetto, Cracow, 1937.
Gelatin silver print. International Center of Photography, New York; Purchase.
Courtesy Mara Vishniac Kohn.

457. ROMAN VISHNIAC. Granddaughter and Grandfather, Warsaw, 1938.
Gelatin silver print. International Center of Photography, New York;
International Fund for Concerned Photography, Purchase. Courtesy Mara Vishniac Kohn.

ROMAN VISHNIAC. Elderly man/

ROMAN VISHNIAC. Jewish schoolchildren/


458. HUMPHREY SPENDER. Street Scene in a Milltown, 1937-38.
(From Mass-Observation published as Worktown People, 1982).
Gelatin silver print. Falling Wall Press, Bristol, England.

459. BILL BRANDT. Halifax, 1936.
Gelatin silver print.

  (see collection)

(b Hamburg, 3 May 1904; d London, 20 Dec 1983).

English photographer of German birth. The son of a British father and a German mother, he suffered the traumas of World War I, followed by a long period of illness with tuberculosis. This affliction caused Brandt to spend much of his early youth in a sanitarium in Davos, Switzerland. Between the ages of 16 and 22 Brandt derived a lot of his knowledge of the world from illustrated books and magazines. His mother was an enthusiast for poster art and took Das Plakat, an up-to-date journal of graphic art that featured work of such contemporaries as Lucian Bernhard (1883–1972). As a boy Brandt became proficient in drawing and painting in watercolours.


Micheldever, Hampshire, 1948


During this same period, a number of Japanese photographers, with great interest in Western attitudes toward art and photography, found in the "new photography" (to be discussed in Chapter 9) the means for a humane portrayal of the hitherto despised and unrecorded lower classes. Horino Masao, a photographer of great versatility who also was interested in montage and industrial imagery, made large close-up portraits of working men, beggars (pi. no. 460), and street people. Similar subjects and approach can be seen in vibrant street images by Kuwabara Kineo (pl. no. 461) and in documentations of life in the occupied territories of Manchuria by several of Japan's most notable photographers. By the 1940s, however, photographers had put their cameras at the service of the government bureaucracy or they portrayed the pleasures of rural life, as in the images made by Hamaya Hiroshi between 1940 and 1944 for Snow Country (pl. no. 462). The conflict that had expanded from China to a confrontation with the United Srates on the Pacific islands effectively ended a brief but exhilarating period of expressive documentation.

In the United States, the Photo League, formed in the mid-1930s by a group of politically conscious photographers, was committed to the tradition of straight picture-making that its members traced back to Hill and Adamson, Stieglitz, and Hine. With this concept, the League eventually encompassed a broad range of styles ind goals, but, as initially conceived by its photographer-rounders Sid Grossman (pi. no. 463) and Sol Libsohn, its specific purpose was the promotion of documentary photography through a school and the establishment of "feature groups"—units organized to depict the less picturesque aspects of urban life, which they felt were being ignored by art photographers and Pictorialists. Projects included the Chelsea and Pitt Street documents, with the most fully realized being the Harlem Document. This was a three-year effort headed by Aaron Siskind and including Harold Corsini, Morris Engel, and Jack Manning (all later respected professionals), which produced a searching but sympathetic look at life in New York's most significant black neighborhood. An image of a woman and children (pi. no. 478) by Engel (who became an independent filmmaker) encapsulates both the claustrophobia and the humanity of the ghetto, while Siskind's many images of street life in the same community reveal the way blacks "grasped a patch of happiness whenever and wherever they could find it."

Responding to the general movement in the arts toward more personalized modes of expression, League members adopted the concept of creative photography in the late 1940s, but despite this subtle shift away from pure documentation many former members continued their commitment to humanist ideals even after the organization's politically inspired demise in 1952. Former League president Walter Rosenblum, for instance, undertook a series of self-motivated projects to document life in East Harlem, in Haiti, and in the South Bronx (pi. no. 465); W. Eugene Smith (pi. no. 475), also a former president, con-tinued his commitment to these ideals in Minamata; while rhers, among them Bernard Cole (pi. no. 464), Arthur Leipzig, and Dan Weiner, found a limited opportunity to treat humanistic themes in the flourishing field of postwar photojournalism (see Chapter 10).

Before the 1930s, Pictorialists and their supporters subscribed to the idea that art ought not to be utilitarian. n consequence, they were blind to the fact that genuine feeling and innovative vision might imbue camera images made for a social purpose with imagination and meaning. At the same time, those who used documentary works frequently disregarded the individual photographer and -eproduccd the images without credit and at times without permission. Often social documentary photographers were unknown unless their work was used in a specific con-text. The outstanding quality of the work done under the aegis of the F.S.A. and by Abbott for Changing New York were factors that helped transform this situation, demonstrating to the photographic community and to viewers at large that divisions between art and document are difficult to maintain when dealing with images of actuality. These and other works made clear that, no matter what its purpose, any camera image may transcend the mundaneness of its immediate subject and transmute matter into diought and feeling—the essential goal of all visual art. Recognizing that purposeful photographs also may enlarge vision and inspire compassion even after the specific problems they addressed have disappeared, the generation of photographers diat grew to maturity after die second World War rejected die compartmentalization of photographic expression diat had been die legacy of the Pictorialist movement. Instead they sought to imbue their work, no matter what its ultimate purpose, with the passion and immediacy found in social documentation at its best.

460. HORINO MASAO. Beggar, 1932.
Gelatin silver print.

461. KUWABARA KINEO. Scene at a Fair, 1936.
Gelatin silver print.

462. HAMAYA HIROSHI. Untitled, from Snow Country,
a Record of Folk Customs During the Lunar New Tear Celebrations in Niigata Prefecture, 1940-44.
Gelatin silver print.

463. SID GROSSMAN. Coney Island, 1947.
Gelatin silver print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

464. BERNARD COLE. Shoemaker's Lunch, Newark, N.J., 1944.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Gwen Cole, Shelter Island, N.Y.

465. WALTER ROSENBLUM. Mullah Park, Bronx, New York, 1980.
Gelatin silver print.

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