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Essential Moments in Photographic Printmaking


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BY Robert Hirsch November 01, 2009 · Published by Focal Press

Robert Hirsch surveys the diverse ways photographic movements and practices have addressed the question "What is a photograph?” throughout the history of the medium.

This excerpt from Photographic Possibilities is provided courtesy of Focal Press. To purchase the book and learn more about the publisher, visit the Focal Press website.









An imaging system designed to record pictures by capturing light reflected by a subject onto a light-sensitive medium, such as film or electronic sensors, photography is built upon evolving artistic, cultural, scientific, and technical innovations. The motivating force behind its invention was the human desire to easily and accurately make visual representations directly from life.

Most people find user-friendly digital cameras adequate for their photographic record keeping needs. Others do not. For them, it is imperative to control, interact with, and manipulate the photographic process, and actively interject their responses to the subject. This book has been written for these expressive image makers whose photographs are an essential component of how they observe, describe, define, communicate, remember, celebrate, and express their relationship to the world.

Nowadays, people often take it for granted that all pictures are either quotes from visible reality or signs that stand for something else and possess their own innate structure and value. But sometimes pictures can defy our cultural expectations and predetermined narratives and simply represent circumstances that cannot be expressed in any other way. Pictures possess their own native structure that may defy explanation, regardless of how many words are wrapped around them. They remain a purely visual phenomenon that can elicit unique responses from both makers and viewers. Those who are compelled to make pictures understand that visual communication has its own vocabulary or language.

Reactions to a photograph are uniquely personal and should not be pigeonholed into tight-fitting, predetermined roles. Although many people have been conditioned by photojournalism to believe the purpose of a photograph is to quickly provide empirical commentary "about” a subject, it is possible that a photograph may not make a concrete statement or answer a specific question. A photograph is not necessarily about something; rather it is something in and of itself. It may be enigmatic or a work of the imagination, allowing viewers access to something that could not be perceived or understood in another medium. Open-ended photographic images can be eccentric, and their changeable nature, which can disturb conventional standards of correctness, often makes them uncomfortable to look at. Such challenging and consciousness raising images can be likened to dancer Isadora Duncan's statement: "If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it” or as Oscar Wilde stated tongue in cheek, "All art is quite useless.”

Some people think of a photograph as a conversation between a photographer, a subject, and a viewer. Every conversation has a context, whose participants not only exchange words but formulate meaning based on how the words are spoken, to whom they are addressed, the body language of the participants, the personal history among the participants, and the environment in which the conversation takes place. When the participants think about a particular subject or image, a distillation of meaning becomes possible. Thinking involves the creative interaction among the participants in the visual conversation and can lead to definition. Definition allows people to acknowledge and take responsibility for solving a problem or reaching a conclusion about what an image maker deemed significant.

During the early part of the twentieth century Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity (1905–1916) collapsed the Newtonian notion that space and time are fixed by representing examples of how space and time are relative.1 Einstein's Theory provided a variable interaction between the observer and the observed, shattering the notion of Renaissance illusionism, the convincing depiction of nature. This open process acknowledged an active interaction among the artist, the object, and the viewer in the formation of meaning and greatly affected how artists of the time, from Picasso to Alvin Langdon Coburn, depicted their world. As the artist/photographer Man Ray mused, "Perhaps the final goal desired by the artist is a confusion of merging of all the arts, as things merge in real life.”

The Language of Photography

Photography is seeing double, a stand-in for the original subject. All photographs are manipulated representations of something else; it is all a matter of degree because photographs are directly derived from other sources of external reality. When knowledgeable viewers look at a photograph they can usually trace it back to its technical origins, such as type of camera or whether the capture was film or digital. The final image is the culmination of the properties of the original subject, the specific materials used in the creation, the process of production, the artistic vision of the photographer, and the presentation method. When people disagree about whether or not a picture is "photographic,” what they are really arguing about is the amount of image management, the degree to which deviation from the original image capture is tolerated for a work to still be considered photographic in character.

Figure 1.1 Witkin borrows from the past to rethink recent American history by constructing truth through fantasy. "There are many parallels to the Raft of the Medusa [painted by Théodore Géricault, 1818–1819 as a political statement about the incompetent French leadership] and the presidency of George W. Bush. When the French frigate Medusa sank, the captain and many of his senior officers brutally commandeered the seaworthy lifeboats, leaving the passengers and sailors to try and survive on a raft. The people on the Medusa were the victims of a class struggle. The people on the Raft of George W. Bush—his party and regimeare the victims of their own rationale, their conservative elitism, their hunger for political and social power, and their unilateral military ambitions. I want to show the leaders of this regime as royalty without clothes. As the fools they really are.” © Joel-Peter Witkin. The Raft of George W. Bush, 2006. 16 × 20 and 38 × 24 inches. Toned gelatin silver print.

The old expression notwithstanding, photography is not nature's mirror. Rather, the nature of photography permits the manifestation of personal realities through the action of light through photographically light-sensitive materials (film, paper, sensor). Simply put, but difficult for many to accept, there is no mandate of how an image should look. When two first-rate photographers independently photograph the same subject they produce different results. This is because the underpinnings of creativity and originality are formulated on learning to think and act autonomously based on life experiences and in turn expressing these ideas in a fashion different from previously recognized views of a similar subject. Fresh ideas come from recontextualizing the past. When we look at other images, we draw in memories of things we never directly experienced, expanding to our worldview. The more one knows about how images are made, the more one realizes that image making is a both a derivative and interpretive process.

Notions of what constitutes creativity and originality have always swirled around photographic practice, thus making it imperative to realize that Western society's intellectual heritage, including photography, is founded on a culture of transformation, one of borrowing, sharing, reborrowing, and then amending, expanding, and improvingthe full range of ways in which new art builds on and emerges from the old. Consider one of America's cultural icons: Steamboat Willie, the 1928 Walt Disney cartoon that introduced Mickey Mouse. Steamboat Willie borrowed from, and played off of, Buster Keaton's 1928 silent film Steamboat Bill, Jr., which itself had borrowed from a 1910 song, Steamboat Bill. Disney's creative act was to snatch material from the ethos around him, mix it with his own talent, and then imprint that union into the character of our culture. Select an art form and you will find this 1–2–3 combination of snatch, mix, and imprint. As Pablo Picasso quipped, "Bad artists copy; great artists steal.”

It is worth noting that in the early history of photography a series of judicial decisions could have changed the course of the medium: courts were asked to decide whether a photographer needed permission before capturing an image. Was a photographer stealing from an architect or building owner when photographing a structure or from an individual whose photograph he or she took, pirating something of private and certifiable value? Those early decisions went in favor of those accused of thievery. Just as Disney took inspiration from Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr. and the existence of real mice, image makers need the freedom to interpret the archive of human knowledge without the bonds of restrictive and expensive copyright laws to expand our fund of collective information.

What photography can do is provide us with the physical means to create or invent images from our imaginations. By gaining a working, hands-on understanding of a wide range of photographic processes, image makers can expand their visual vocabulary and be in a better position to obtain the desired outcome.

Learning to control a process is the first step an Image maker must master to transform an abstract idea into a specific physical reality. Only after a basic working knowledge of a process is obtained can precise control begin. To that end, this text provides basic working procedures and introduces a variety of well-tested photographic methods, with examples of how and why other photographers have applied them. It promotes a position of inclusive thinking in terms of concept, content, and process, with the ability to freely navigate among them, to fabricate one's own meaningful destination. In this setting process is placed in the service of concept to construct evocative content. This is possible when the heart and the mind combine an idea from the imagination and determine the most suitable technical means of bringing it into existence. Then individual vision is the trump card, an outcome superbly summed up by former New York Yankee catcher and pop philosopher Yogi Berra who said: "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

Concepts and Technology Affecting Photographic Printmaking

Ever since Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre made public his daguerreotype process in 1839, people have been discovering new photographic materials and methods to represent the way they see the world. Initially people considered photography an automatic mechanical method for transferring what was seen in nature into the familiar two-dimensional form of Renaissance perspective. Unsurprisingly, within a short period of time photographs were confused with, and substituted for, reality. Photography proved so able at reality substitution that many people came to see this as photography's raison d 'être. The photographer was presumed to act as a neutral observer who operated a piece of machinery that automatically performed (supposedly without human intervention) to truthfully record a subject, capturing it as a visual specimen in Time. Such thinking bound photography to representation, while liberating painting to explore new avenues of color, form, and space, giving rise to the development of abstract modern art.

Photography's ability to preserve a moment of reality led to the early subgenre of postmortem photography, the practice of photographing the recently departed as a keepsake to remember the deceased became part of the mourning process. This was especially common with infants and young children, as this was likely the family's only image of the child. This practice of "cheating death” peaked in popularity around the end of the nineteenth century and faded as the family snapshot gained popularity.

Although Photoshop has become a verb, people still want to believe their own eyes, even when they are aware they are only seeing pixels, thus validating Grouch Marx's observational wisecrack, "Who are you going to believeme or your lyin' eyes?” During the mid-twentieth century Henri Cartier-Bresson's concept of "The Decisive Moment,” that fraction of a second when the essence of a subject is revealed, defined full-frame 35mm photographic truth. Now we can have countless, dynamic, digital moments. Just because something is in flux or has been constructed from many different pieces of time and space doesn't mean it isn't true. What we refer to as "The Truth,” is where our legends commingle with fact to form an accepted cultural reality, which is why allegory remains a favorite method for expressing moral, political, and spiritual messages. Artists have long recognized this phenomenon, leading Pablo Picasso, known for his ability to dissect and reassemble his subjects, to observe: "Art is a lie that reveals the truth.”

Figure 1.2 While investigating the function of photographic reality, Spagnoli began to make daguerreotypes because of their illusion of depth. This illusion, Spagnoli states, "Allows viewers to feel as if they are seeing the ‘thing itself,' as was said in the nineteenth century, but combined with this veracity is the obvious artifice of the image. "To create this image, the artist used an 8 x 10 inch Deardorff view camera to produce a direct positive view of Times Square on New Year's Eve from atop scaffolding erected for the celebrations. © Jerry Spagnoli. Untitled, from the series Last Great Daguerreian Survey of the Twentieth Century, 2001. 6½ × 8½ inches. Daguerreotype.

Figure 1.3 In 1856 Hamilton L. Smith of Ohio patented a photographic method called the melainotype, previously described as ferrotypes. These one-of-a-kind images are made directly on a thin iron plate that has been coated with chemicals, exposed in a camera while still wet, and developed on the spot. Although now faded, the flower appears to have been hand-colored. Even though the plates are iron, not tin, these images were popularly known as tintypes. The process, less expensive than daguerreotype and more durable than other earlier methods of photographic portraiture, became popular during the Civil War and remained so with itinerant and street photographers, especially in overseas tourist locations, until the Polaroid process replaced it in the 1950s. Unknown photographer. Unidentified Baby, post-mortem, circa 1870s. 4¼ × 5½ inches. Tintype. © Collection of Mark Jacobs.


We should bear in mind there are no neutral photographs. All photographic depictions have an inherent bias. Photography has four distinct kinds of bias. The first bias originates with the people who create and manufacture the commonly used photographic systems, which include the cameras, lenses, films, papers, chemicals, and darkroom equipment as well as digital equipment, materials, and software relied on by most people to physically produce a photographic image. Historically, these companies set the physical boundaries and the general framework that came to be considered standard practice and within which most photographers must operate. Additionally, market forces, including competition, are prime factors in determining product availability. The second bias comes from each photographer's internal predilections and how they use these systems to create specific images. Every photograph reveals the photographer's point of viewa combination of the subject, the photographer, and the process. The third bias is in the personal experiences viewers bring to determine what a photograph means to them. The fourth bias consists of external cultural forces, including academic social/economic/political/media trends, which steer public perception in particular directions at any given time.

Initial Modifications to Photographic Images

Even before the advent of photography the technical exploitation of new inventions, such as dioramas,2 were made possible by compositing many images. Just past the dawn of photography, methods that could alter the photographic reality were widely practiced and accepted. Practitioners of photography had no qualms about modifying a process to improve and/or fit their aesthetic and technical requirements. For instance, people noticed color was not present so miniature painters began applying the missing ingredient directly on daguerreotypes and paper prints to meet the demand to reproduce color, setting the precedent of hand-applied synthetic color.

Extensive manipulation of the daguerreotype demanded more resourcefulness. By the early 1850s John A. Whipple of Boston patented a vignetting method to produce what he called "crayon daguerreotypes.” In this method a hole is cut in a piece of white card stock and attached to a wire frame, which is placed between the camera and the sitter so that light reflects on the surface. During the exposure it is kept in motion, in a manner similar to burning in a print under the enlarger, to produce a blurry white vignette that allows the image of the sitter to fade to white on the outer edges. The result is the subject's head visually projects itself forward, while the shoulders softly "dissolve” into the white background.

As early as 1858, the photography manual The American Handbook of the Daguerreotype provided instructions for using masking and double exposures to make one person appear twice in a single photograph. In the 1840s Henry Fox Talbot sometimes chose to wax his paper calotypes (the first negative/positive process) after development to make them more transparent. Also during this time, the first photographic studios added backdrops to provide the illusion the subject was somewhere else, such as beside a window that looked out onto a local landmark or natural scenery. This increased their visual detail and contrast, making them easier and faster to print. In 1848 Gustave Le Gray introduced a waxed paper process in which the wax was incorporated into the paper fibers before the paper was sensitized. This chemically and physically altered the speed and tonal range of the paper negatives and produced a result different from the waxed calotype. Photographers such as Charles Nègre, David Octavius Hill, and Robert Adamson used a pencil on calotype negatives to alter tonal relationships, increase separation of a figure from the background, accent highlights, add details or objects not included in the original exposure, and remove unwanted items.

Figure 1.4 The presence of the artist's hand is evident in Mitchell's work. He refers to this body of images as "blanketscapes,” artificial landscapes made by substituting blankets for geographical elements. He then combines these images with those of actual landscapes to make a collage that bears the indexical markings of the fragmentation and reconstruction steps of his method. After creating the collage, Mitchell transfers the image to a tintype plate using AG-Plus liquid emulsion. Though each tintype is unique, Mitchell relies on previsualization throughout the creation process to control the outcome. © Blue Mitchell. The Calling, 2005. 8 × 10 inches. Tintype.

One might think that such practices would have revealed the malleability of photography from its beginnings, but this does not seem to have been an issue. Perhaps people were bedazzled by the process itself or considered such effects as hand-coloring to be positive enhancements, making for a truer picture. Whatever their thoughts, for the most part people ignored how the human hand so frequently revised the so-called mechanical objectivity of photographs both before and after the moment of exposure.

Combination Printing

Combination printing from multiple negatives became fairly common in the mid-to-late 1800s. The collodion, or wet-plate, process, which became the major commercial photographic method of the 1850s, possessed a low sensitivity to light that hampered the making of group portraits. The wet plate's limited sensitivity to blue and ultraviolet (UV) light made it impossible to record naturalistic, full tonal range landscapes. If the exposure for the subject or landscape was correct, the sky would be grossly overexposed, and when printed would appear, at best, as a mottled, unpicturesque white. Combination printing was developed to overcome these inherent technical problems. For instance, Gustave Le Gray made separate exposures for his landscapes one of the ground and another for the clouds and sky that then, through the use of masking, were printed on a single piece of paper. This technique received a great deal of attention with the unveiling of Oscar Gustav Rejlander's Two Ways of Life (1857), an image made from 30 negatives. Through the photographs and writing of Henry Peach Robinson in Pictorial Effect in Photography (1869), combination printing became the method of choice for serious photographers of artistic intent.

Figure 1.5 Throughout Tracz's Renude series, the artist reinterprets and reconsiders iconic photographic nudes. To create this image, he projected photographs of nudes, originally taken by Henry Peach Robinson in the 1850s, onto contemporary nude models. The resulting image serves as both a depiction of and a deconstruction of the role of the nude in photographic history. Tracz elaborates, "My purpose is to demystify and bring to social reality the practice of (mostly female) depictions of nudity.” © Timothy Tracz. Robinson Renude #185, from the series The History of Art Renude, 2002. 12 × 18 inches. Gelatin silver print.

Figure 1.6 Carnochan is attracted to hand-coloring because she is "moved by the ways in which the imagination colors everyday life and creates private views of experience, whether revealed in words or in images.” After printing this floral study on a warm-tone, semi-matte paper, she used cotton swabs to paint the work with oils. Erasers allowed the artist to hand-alter the work further, creating highlights and manipulating the painted areas, until the image on the paper matched the image in her mind's eye. © Brigitte Carnochan. Hydrangea, 1999. 11½ × 9 inches. Hand-colored gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Modernbook Gallery, Palo Alto, CA.

Amateurs Push the Boundaries of Accepted Practice

As paper prints became the most popular method for making photographic images, amateurs formed camera clubs that began issuing their images in limited edition albums. Following the example of the daguerreotype, Alfred H. Wall, a former miniature and portrait painter, promoted the practice of applying color in his A Manual of Artistic Colouring as Applied to Photographs (1861). Writing that painting over a photograph was no less acceptable than painters such as Leonardo and Titian painting over the abbozzo,3 Wall complained that artists repudiated colored photographs because they were not paintings while photographers rejected them because they were not true photographs. He saw no reason for censuring work that combined "the truth of the one with the loveliness of the other.” Composite and hand-colored images took time and deft handwork. The additional time was seen as a way to make photography less mechanical and more artistic. This in turn increased a photograph's value and encouraged photographers to portray subjects previously reserved for painters.

Amateurs pushed the boundaries of accepted practice and explored a more personal style of expression than the commercial studios. Rejecting the genteel and preordained poses of the commercial studio in favor of a more active image, they pictured a wider range of facial expressions and postures. In the 1860s, one such amateur, Lady Filmer, made early collages that combined carte-de-visite portraits (2½ × 4 inch prints attached to a paper card) with watercolor designs of butterflies and floral arrangements. These pieces, with their occasional sexual allusions, reveal a pre-Freudian spirit of unconscious association, aspects of mental life not subject to recall at will. At the time, such expressions could only be made with pictures, as the terminology to discuss them did not exist yet. Photographic montage allowed people of various levels of artistic skill to take everyday events and re-orient them in time and space. This positioned photography as a medium that invited artists to delve in the free association, cut and paste world of dreams, enabling the unconscious, repressed residue of socially unacceptable desires and experiences to come to conscious recognition.

Cartes were commonly collected into albums of friends and family, a practice that thrives today in digital imaging in the form of photosharing websites such as Flickr and Snapfish. This impulse is also very active on social-centric Internet sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Figure 1.7 For his Portrait Collages series, Tracz created a "fictitious family album of surreal snapshots,” influenced by nineteenth century travel photographs. He collaged found portrait photographs with his own landscape photographs, giving new rationale to extant images. Whether the collages appear logical or uncanny, they highlight the disruption that Tracz has purposely created by altering the scale of the original images as he sees fit, making elements of human involvement and uncertainty decidedly visible. © Timothy Tracz. 07_00_01, from the series Portrait Collages, 2000. 9½ × 13 inches. Inkjet print.


An off-shoot of the carte, the postcard format, about 3½ × 5½ inches, was patented in the U.S. in 1861 and spread to Europe around the end of the decade. It became a popular folk art genre with fantastic photomontaged cards becoming popular in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. At the turn of twentieth century America, free rural delivery; reduced rates for cards; small, folding, handheld cameras; and the new postcard-size printing papers contributed to making the postcard immensely popular. The postcard's form and style threw the sacred rules of picture making to the winds. Proverbial joke cards, such as the Jackalope (a jack rabbit with antlers) and enormous fruits and vegetables, played with visual veracity and sense of scale to startle viewers and express an irreverent sense of good humor in how the subject is depicted. Others served as documents, from the exotic and bizarre to the commonplace and mundane, commemorating people, places, and events from the World's Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World Fair of 1893) to Dallas's Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The Stereoscope

During the Great Exhibition of 1851 Queen Victoria became captivated by Sir David Brewster's refracting stereoscope. After a special one was made for her, within three months a quarter million stereoscopes and millions of stereo cards sold in London and Paris, touching off a Stereo Craze. By 1856, the London Stereoscopic Company, whose motto was "No home without a stereoscope,” had sold an estimated 500,000 inexpensive stereo viewers. The ease of reproducing wet-plate collodion images insured cheap paper stereo cards. Mass production allowed the "optical wonder of the age” to find its way into middle and upper economic level homes, and made the stereo craze photography's biggest nineteenth century bonanza, remaining popular as a educational tool up to World War II.

Not only was the viewing experience of the stereoscope radical, stereo cards also dramatically democratized the subject matter of picture making in a manner people recognized and understood. Although too small for many general artistic effects, cards did portray a scene both during daylight and at night and featured numerous optical special effects, such as double exposures that were utilized to produce spirit cards. The serial aspects of certain cards that were sold in sets can also be considered precinematic in how they represented time and space.

The strength of stereo cards was to provide a plenitude of representations, and people clamored to see anything they could not see for themselves. Oliver Wendell Holmes proposed creating a comprehensive stereographic library. In this context, the stereo card was the forerunner of Wikipedia—a home encyclopedia for the eye, providing a visual reference of outer reality that was a consummate manifestation of the empiricism of the Enlightenment. In the Age of Reason, the empirical mindset depended on direct experience and/or observation. The camera, with its seemingly neutral recording, could represent the naive, ideal, and rational. If an encyclopedia is a source where data is collected, then anyone with a camera could collect evidence. The concept that one could be educated through the use of photographs and that history could be recorded and learned by means of photography got a boost from the stereo card. Additionally, everyday activities, such as men drinking beer, families having dinner, a hometown band playing, appeared as a presnapshot innovation. The popularity of stereo cards, made possible by the collodion process, demonstrated that people not only wanted images of themselves and their loved ones but also of their world. This desire for visual information, and the potential profits that could be made by supplying it, led photographers into situations not yet visually recorded.

Figure 1.8 The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 distressed and saddened the U.S. Postcards marking the event were an unpretentious, low-cost form of manipulated, photographic-based commemoration, which provided a way for people to try and comprehend the part of human nature that leads people to believe murder will solve their problems. The Warren Commission concluded Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, but others had their doubts, spawning numerous conspiracy theories, none of which has ever been proven. Assassination Site President John F. Kennedy, circa 1970s. 3½ × 5½ inches. Curteichcolor® 3-D Natural Color Reproduction. Courtesy of Robert Hirsch Collection.

Spirit Photography

Spirit photography, stereoscopic ghost images generally made through extended and/or multiple exposure, were originally intended as mass-market amusements. However in 1861, a Boston engraver named William H. Mumler claimed to photograph actual ghosts. This extension of photographic time touched off an international wave of spirit photography and a scientific controversy that lasted well into the twentieth century, eventually including all types of paranormal photography.

The Hand-Held Camera and the Snapshot

In the late 1880s, the advent of flexible roll film and affordable, simple-to-use hand-held cameras, such as the Kodak, kick-started the process of allowing ordinary people to make photographs of their own daily existence. The Kodak initiated a new dialogue among the maker, subject, and viewer, continuing photography's ability to create a broader sense of visual democracy. George Eastman astutely marketed the camera to people who had never taken a photograph and, in doing so, reformed the boundaries of photographic practice. In providing an industrial support system capable of producing standardized materials to maintain the new practice, Eastman and his Kodak transformed a decentralized practice into a mass retail market of goods and services. With the introduction of daylight loading film and his inclusive motto, "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest,” Eastman launched the photo-finishing industry that ultimately made the camera an integral part of middle-class American life. By enabling a wide-ranging cross-section of the population to actively join the image-making process without any special training, the Kodak contradicted the proclamations of artists and scientists that special equipment and training were needed, marking the start of photography as a popular pastime.

Figure 1.9 Using multiple exposure, Fallis superimposed the faces of several deceased figures over the figure of a living woman supposedly in the midst of a séance. Though spirit photography originated as an amusement, it raised important questions of the level of trickery and truth in photography. The experimentation with time and the construction of meaning through numerous exposures with which Fallis and other spirit photographers became involved continue to influence the methodology and thinking of contemporary photographers. © S. W. Fallis. [Spirit Photograph Supposedly Taken During a Séance], circa 1901. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

The snapshot shooter's interest was generally personal, often picturing family members and activities. This unpretentious outlook had a deceptively simple freshness capable of changing the attitude of an observer toward a subject. The snapshot genre was not the invention of an individual, but rather an extended collaborative process of exploring the prosaic that relied on consensus to establish meaning. The will of the individual was set aside in favor of community consent, with a partiality for familiar moments positioned in the center of the frame with little thought to what was occurring in the rest of the scene. The snapshot's proliferation after World War I signaled professionals were no longer necessary to make basic record pictures, forcing them to become proficient in highly specialized applications, such as studio lighting, which was beyond the scope of hobbyists. The hand-held cameras renewed interest in making prints that were larger than the original negative, encouraging enlarging and its accompanying aesthetics to become universal practice.

The ease of producing a snapshot encouraged people to take chances just to see what would "come out.” The sheer number of photographs being taken increased the impact of chance, leading George Bernard Shaw to say: "The photographer is like the cod which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity.”4 Through its million incarnations, the snapshot altered the visual arts. While meeting certain basic pictorial expectations, the snapshot also invited chance and the unexpected. This element of surprise could reveal a subject without adornment, covering another or a different kind of truth. The snapshot attitude became provocative when gaffes, previously eliminated by professionals, were adopted as working methods by serious image makers. What were initially accidents, such as informal framing, unexpected cropping, unbalanced compositions, skewed horizon lines, unusual angles, weird perspectives, banal subject matter, extremes in lighting, out-of-focus subjects, blurring, double exposures, extended time exposures, and poor quality optics, grew into conscious design. These ideas and ways of seeing began to transform pictorial conventions, influencing modern art movements, from surrealism to Dadaism. This reached a high point in the late 1960s with the so-called snapshot aesthetic being practiced by highly trained professionals, which set themselves in opposition to the ideals of the classical photographic customs.

Picturing Time

The technical innovations of the nineteenth century altered and expanded the perimeters of human vision in art and science. As early as 1834, Sir Charles Wheatstone observed that an object painted on a revolving disk appeared to be stationary when illuminated by intense electric light. He also noticed that flying insects seemed to be fixed in mid-air by the same means. In 1851, Henry Fox Talbot attached a page of The London Times to a swiftly revolving wheel in a darkened room, uncapped the lens of his camera, and made an exposure of about 1/100 000 of a second by means of an electric spark, sharply freezing the action of the moving paper. Talbot concluded that pictures of moving objects could be made by illuminating them with a sudden electric flash. By the 1860s, as previously mentioned, photographers were making instantaneous stereoscopic views that arrested the action of people walking on the street. In 1887 Ernst Mach, an Austrian scientist, used an electric spark (the precursor of flash) as a lighting source to make postage-sized, stop-action images of projectiles moving at over 750 miles per hour. By the mid-1890s, spark exposures of one-millionth of a second were being made by scientists such as Lord Rayleigh and Théodore Lullin (who photographed dripping tap water) and A. M. Worthington (who photographed splashing milk), providing the first images of previously unseeable occurrences. What these photographs depicted was often startlingly different from earlier visual depictions, making it obvious that human vision was unreliable for detecting events that unfolded in fractions of a second.

Up until the 1880s, most people considered photography to consist of single images that depicted and made a subject known to the viewer. The work of Muybridge, Marey, and others opened the possibility of learning more about a subject through a series of photographs that occurred over time. These new ways of conceptualizing time and motion shifted society's understanding of the present moment as a singular instant to that of a temporally extended continuum. This profound transformation in understanding and experiencing time encouraged photographers like Nadar to experiment in the portrait studio with extending the amount of visual time a viewer had to know a subject by presenting an extended collection of moments. In 1886, Nadar published a photo-interview, The Art of Living a Hundred Years, based on a series of 21 exposures made by his son Paul as Nadar conversed with the French scientist Michel-Eugène Chevreul on his 100th birthday. Chevreul's commentary formed the captions to the photographs, which were reproduced via the new halftone process that allowed photographs and text to be simultaneously printed together. The serial use of sequential photographs combined with an interview resulted in a new format: the photo-essay. These newly developed methods affected the look and content of photographs and further altered society's sense of how time and space were visually represented.

Figure 1.10 In the manner of an archetypal snapshot, Billingslea quickly "grab shot” this portrait. Though her act of composition and capture was almost instantaneous, Billingslea's processing was very deliberate. After developing her T-MAX film in T-MAX developer, she printed this image on fiber base paper and processed it using Lauder chemistry, one of many small companies making black-and-white chemistry. She later increased the print's highlight detail and permanence through selenium toning. © Renee Billingslea. American Flag, Santa Clara, CA, 2004. 15 × 15 inches. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Michael Rosenthal Contemporary Art Gallery, Redwood City, CA.

Photography into Ink: The Halftone Process

In 1842 the search for a process that would bring photography into the arena of publishing led Hippolyte Fizeau to devise a method for making prints from etched daguerreotypes, but it was impractical. The breakthrough came in the work Talbot did for what would come to be known as the halftone process. The halftone process permits a continuous tone image, such as a photograph, to be printed simultaneously with text. The halftone principle utilizes an optical illusion in which tones are represented by numerous small dots of different sizes having equal optical density and equal spacing between their centers. In printing, the halftone screen divides an image into tiny dots that deposit ink on paper in proportion to the density of the original image tones in the areas they represent. By the 1890s, refinements in the halftone process made it economically feasible to print text and monochromatic images together, ending the era during which early photographers acted as small independent publishers of their own images. As photomechanical reproduction improved during the first decades of the twentieth century, picture magazines used more photographs for illustration and in advertising and found that their sales rose, which propelled their use.

The Photo Magazine

Improvements in the halftone process made it a crucial component of the twentieth-century newspaper's dynamic graphic system of type, drawing, and photographs, Attaching text to a photograph, generally by an editor, editorial committee, or paying client, was a way to stabilize its free-floating meaning and deliver a message in an instructive mode with a distinct point of view. In a technologically based culture that is dependant on precise definitions, a multiple reading of a news photograph was not considered desirable. The control of meaning for commercial, editorial, and political purposes was refined by German illustrated magazines, such as Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (Berlin Illustrated Newspaper, founded in 1890), the Münchner Illustrierte Press (Munich Illustrated Press, 1923), and AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung [Workers' Illustrated Newspaper], started in 1921). Their illustrated lessons about how to influence viewer reaction to visual media were quickly absorbed and conveyed throughout the world, especially in American publications including The Saturday Evening Post (1821–1969), Colliers (1888–1957), and The Ladies Home Journal (circa 1883 to present).

Figure 1.11 Baden rethinks photographic time by constructing a sequence of self-portraits taken daily over the course of 20 years. Keeping things simple, he uses as a Pentax K1000, a tripod, and a white backdrop, and processes the film and resulting prints following ordinary, by the book procedures. Baden explains, "It is vital that each day's image be no more and no less than a visual record, a facsimile of its subject. I consciously avoid beauty. I standardize the technical and logistic aspects of this procedure to the extent that only one variable remains: whatever change may occur in my face, measured obsessively and incrementally, day after day, for the rest of my life.” © Karl Baden. Twenty-Two Faces, from the series Every Day, 1987–2008. Dimensions variable. Inkjet print. Courtesy of Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston and Robert Mann Gallery, New York.

By the 1930s, the expansion of the audience for photographs changed the subject matter depicted. Previously, photographers could make a living selling postcards of local scenes and people. Now, to reap the economic advantages of the new technology, publishers, such as Henry Luce, founder of Time, Fortune, and Life, needed subjects that interested large audiences, leading to the glamorization of places and people from the Fork Peck Dam to Greta Garbo.

Photomechanical Reproduction and Meaning

Photomechanical reproduction made pictures ubiquitous and altered concepts of art while raising issues of control and censorship. In "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936),5 Walter Benjamin stated that even the best reproduction has an imperfect presence, therefore it lacks a unique existence, an authenticity, a state of being and authority he called aura. Benjamin wrote that reproduction eliminates aura, shatters tradition, and emancipates a work of art from its dependence on ritual, reducing the distance between artists and viewers and making the work more accessible. The breakdown of aura and its replacement of reality with reproduction altered conventions, but the loss of contact with the authentic (original) left a spiritual vacuum of "second-hand” experiences. As photography-based reproduction became routine during the twentieth century, the authentic individuality of an art work and, in turn, the personal self suffered from a mounting sense of alienation due to a loss of belief in the power of nature and its replacement by technology. This is a great irony in light of the fact that such technology was first welcomed by many in the art world as a cost effective way to increase the circulation of their images. By the close of World War II, American artists who previously portrayed the beauty of the natural world joined their European counterparts in turning inward to find subjective responses to their existential woes. Ironically, as inky reproductions age they become "antique images” with a patina of nostalgia and our culture then reassigns an aura, based on the romantic sentiments about the passage of time. This liberates the reproductions from their primary function, converting them into new ways of seeing the past based on the present. Also, Benjamin does not take into account works, such as John James Audubon's prephotographic (engraved in aquatint) catalog The Birds of America (1827–1838), regarded as one of the most superlative picture books ever produced, designed to be seen as reproductions.

The Pictorialists

As market forces experimented with the mass distribution of photographic images during the 1890s, individual explorations into the artistic application of photography experienced a heyday as manipulative methods, especially gum printing, were investigated. This type of printing was favored by the Pictorialists and championed through the work and writing of Alfred Maskell and Robert Demachy in Photo Aquatint, or The Gum Bichromate Process (1897). The Pictorialists stressed the atmospheric and formal effects of the image over those of the subject matter. Composition and tonal values were of paramount concern. Soft-focus lenses were used to emphasize surface pattern rather than detail. Pictorialists did not want to be bound by the tyranny of exactitude. These expressive printmakers favored elaborate processes to show that photography was not a mere mechanical process, but could be controlled by the hand of the maker and therefore be a legitimate visual art form. The Pictorialists ' attitudes and procedures dominated much commercial portrait and illustrative work throughout the first part of the twentieth century, with an emphasis on how beauty could be constructed as opposed to found in nature.

The Secession Movement and the Rise of Photography Clubs

The early 1890s saw the commercial and scientific values of earlier photographic and art societies challenged by supporters of the new aesthetics. The Secession movement reflected the disenchantment of younger artists with the practices and exhibition policies of established Western art societies and led to the formation of alternative institutions in Berlin, Munich, and Vienna, among other places. In photography it led to the creation of the Wiener Kamera Klub in 1891, the Brotherhood of Linked Ring in London in 1892, the Photo-Club de Paris in 1894, and the Photo-Secession in New York in 1902.

The Linked Ring

The Linked Ring, a loose group of photographers disenchanted with the Photographic Society of London's exhibition policies, was one of the most influential secession groups. The "Links” found alternative venues to display and promote photography as an independent medium whose works could be evaluated in their own context and terms rather than by their ability to imitate other media. This privileged club (membership by invitation only) was founded by educated men including Emerson, Robinson, Alfred Maskell, George Davis, and Alfred Horsley Hinton, editor of The Amateur Photographer, begun in 1884 as the first magazine to cater to nonprofessionals. Their first exhibition of some 300 prints, in 1893, generated a stir for being mindfully hung, asymmetrically, breaking with the Photographic Society's Victorian tradition of cramming pictures of different sizes and subject matter frame to frame from the floor to the ceiling. The Links wanted more stringent exhibition standards: they were fed up with how all types of photographs were massed together on a gallery wall, the awarding of medals to mediocre formula pictures, and the use of nonphotographers to jury show entries. They adopted a motto: "no medals and rigid selection.” The Links wanted to separate utilitarian work, whose goal was to record facts, from aesthetic photographs, whose goal was to express beauty. They sought "complete emancipation of pictorial photography . . . from the retarding . . . bondage of that which was purely scientific or technical [so it could pursue] its development as an independent art.”6 Their annual Salon of Pictorial Photography continued to be an important exhibition site until the group dissolved in 1910.

The Photo-Secessionists

In the US, the Pictorialists were followed by the Photo-Secessionists, under the leadership of Alfred Stieglitz. The active group included Joseph Keiley, Gertrude Käsebier, Frank Eugene, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Clarence White. In their quest to have photography recognized as an art form, they experimented with a wide variety of printmaking methods. The Photo-Secessionists' ideals culminated in the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography (1910), at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY. But by this time, a number of the group's members, including Stieglitz, had abandoned the ideas and working concepts of the manipulated image. The Pictorialists did not update their working concepts, and faded as an innovative art movement by the mid-1920s.


The Photo-Secessionists were also the first to artistically experiment with Autochrome, the first widely available color process (1907) to become commercially successful. Autochrome could be used in any regular plate camera, giving photographers access to direct color image capture, albeit in a soft, suggestive pastel color scheme. Although expensive and technically limited, which greatly limited its use, Autochrome cracked a major aesthetic barrier, and publications such as National Geographic began using it as the basis for color reproductions. The Pictorialists found the early color processes foreign to their visual vocabulary and were frustrated by the limited amount of technical control they could exercise over the materials. They therefore continued to favor processes such as platinum/palladium in which they could manage the tone of the final image, adding colors as they saw fit.

Figure 1.12 Wetzel's series without the elephants explores death, memory, and introspection. She utilizes the ambrotype for the brilliance and clarity the process lends to pictorial images. Additionally, she can easily combine twenty-first century darkroom techniques with this nineteenth century process. For this image, Wetzel produced a wet-plate collodion positive transparency from a quarter plate collodion negative. She made a 2 minute exposure to produce the negative and later a 45 second exposure in the enlarger to generate the positive transparency. © Heather Wetzel. November and April, from the series without the elephants, 2004. 10 × 8 inches. Collodion positive transparency.

Naturalistic Photography

Major objections to the concepts and methods of the combination printers and pictorialists were raised in Peter Henry Emerson's Naturalistic Photography (1889), which attacked the concepts of combination printing. Emerson called for simplified working procedures and "selective naturalistic focusing.” This visual approach was supposed to allow the photograph to more closely replicate human vision, in which not everything is seen clearly and sharply. Emerson thought the obligation of the photographer was to discover the camera's own visual code. He stated that through one's selection of framing, lighting, and selective focusing, good images could be made. Emerson emphasized photographing subjects in their natural surroundings without any of the artificial manipulations of the combination printers. He came under heavy criticism for these ideas and recanted with "The Death of Naturalistic Photography” (1890), but the seeds of what would become the "straight” photography movement had been sown.

Figure 1.13 Clatworthy, a self-taught image maker, made his living photographing scenic wonders. Though he worked primarily in the Rocky Mountains, Clatworthy also traveled widely, often while freelancing for National Geographic, which reproduced over a hundred of his autochromes. He made this autochrome in 1928 while traveling in New Zealand and Hawaii. Clatworthy hand-colored the plate to vivify the glowing lava. His manipulation serves to convey the emotional reaction prompted by the volcano's eruption, intensifying the violence and explosiveness of this scene. © Fred Clatworthy. Lava Flow, 1928. 5 × 7 inches. Autochrome. Courtesy of Mark Jacobs Collection.    

The Straight Photographic Aesthetic

After his work in Pictorialism came to a close, Stieglitz began to promote a straight photographic aesthetic in the US at his 291 Gallery and in the final issues of his publication, Camera Work, as exemplified in Paul Strand's photographs made around 1916. Strand had successfully incorporated the concepts of painterly abstraction directly into the idea of straight, sharp-focus, minimally manipulated photography. He believed that photography's raison d'être was its "absolute unqualified objectivity,” which could be found by investigating the medium's own inherent characteristics. The emphasis of the art of photography switched from postexposure methods to creating the image in the camera at the moment of exposure and maintaining a narrow range of simplified printmaking techniques that relied mainly on burning and dodging of dark and light tonal values.

Figure 1.14 Dawson's work echoes the ideas put forth in Peter Henry Emerson's Naturalistic Photography (1889). Photographers, such as Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, later expanded this position into straight, sharp-focus, minimally manipulated photography. The credo of straight photography is based on the premise of previsualization—that a work is fundamentally created at the moment of exposure rather than after the exposure through postvisualization techniques. © Robert Dawson. Japanese Bridge and Geothermal Plant, Iceland, from the Global Water Project, 2004. 16 × 20 inches. Gelatin silver print.

Figure 1.15 Tice purposely utilized a wide-angle lens on his 8 × 10 inch Deardorff camera to exaggerate the diner's angularity. The 30 second exposure provided adequate shadow detail in the milk crates piled up at the back of the diner. He anticipated the pattern of lights produced by the cars rounding the curve of the highway, making it a central compositional device that leads the viewer's eye through and around the picture space. © George Tice. White Castle, Route #1, Rahway, New Jersey, 1973. 8 × 10 inches. Gelatin silver print.


Edward Weston's work, from the late 1920s on, represents the idea of straight photography through the use of what has been referred to as previsualization. Weston claimed that he knew what the final print would look like before he released the camera's shutter. This notion of seeing the final image ahead of time would bring serious printmaking full circle, back to the straightforward approach of the 1850s, when work was directly contact printed onto glossy albumen paper. Weston simplified the photographer's working approach by generally using natural light and a view camera with its lens set at a small aperture. He produced a large-format negative that was contact printed (no enlarging) with a bare light bulb. Photographic detail and extended tonal range were celebrated in a precise black-and-white translation of the original subject on glossy, commercially prepared paper. By eliminating all that he considered unnecessary, Weston wanted to get beyond the subject and its form and uncover the essence or life force of "the thing itself”—an unknowable, inexpressible reality that lies "behind” or beyond what we can observe with our five senses.

Group f/64 and the Zone System

In 1932, a band of California-based photographers, including Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Sonya Noskowiak, and Willard Van Dyke, founded Group f/64. Their primary goal was to create photographs of precise realism without any signs of pictorial handwork. The name of the group reflects the fact that the members favored a small lens aperture that enabled them to achieve images with maximum detail, sharpness, and depth of field. They concentrated on natural forms and found objects that became synonymous with the naturalistic West Coast style.

The ideas from Group f/64 were refined and expanded by Ansel Adams in his Zone System method. The Zone System is a technical method for controlling exposure, development, and printing to give an incisive translation of detail, scale, texture, and tone in the final photographic print. Adam's codification of sensitometry continues to set the standards for pristine wilderness landscape photography. The Zone System, as taught by Minor White and others, was so popular and successful that it dominated serious photographic printmaking throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Photographic Collage/Montage and Modernity

Although its roots can be traced back to photo albums of the 1860s, photomontage became the pre-eminent symbol of Modernity during the 1920s and 1930s, defining the relationship between individual artists and the growing mass. A photographic collage is created when cut and/or torn pieces of one or more photographic images are attached to a common support. A photographic montage is produced when a collage is photographed to convert it back into a photographic image. Utilizing advertising, books, magazines, and newspapers, European artists began cutting and pasting to forge a form that helped explain the crumbling of Europe's great empires and the new society that was evolving after the ghastly devastation of World War I.

The passionate, political photomontages of John Heartfield were specially constructed for reproduction on the printed page. According to fellow Dadaist George Grosz, he and Heartfield "[re]invented the photomontage in his studio at five o'clock on a May morning in 1916.”7 Both were likely familiar with the cutting and pasting of images done by soldiers on the Western front to get reports of the absurd slaughter of World War I past the censors. They called their approach montage, meaning "assembly line,” and termed the maker a "monteur,” or "engineer/mechanic,” indicating that the picture was "engineered,” not "created.”

Heartfield most often appropriated images that he then metaphorically reassembled, especially pictures dealing with the racist Nazis, dramatically subverting their original intent to make scathing social commentary. The photographic nature of montage lends it credibility. Its photographic exactness makes printed advertisements successful and observers are convinced of its message before they have time to analyze how they have been persuaded.

Hannah Höch's montage work offered insight into the new woman, the official redefinition of women's roles going on in German society. The increase in mass print media, Höch's raw material, supplied her with fresh images of women's changing identity—working, using appliances, and modeling in advertisements. Höch explored the intersection of avant-garde photomontage and the splintered experience of daily life in Weimar Germany. Her work deployed allegory, caricature, the grotesque, and irony, reflecting the Dadaist concern with alienation (Verfremdung) and estrangement, taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar, and refashioning photo-based images into photomontages.

Figure 1.16 In his essay "Fallacies of ‘Pure Photography',” Mortensen challenged the hypothesis of Group f/64 by stating, "Purists and puritans alike have been marked by a crusading devotion to self-defined fundamentals, by a tendency to sweeping condemnation of all who over-step the boundaries they have set up, and by grim disapproval of the more pleasing and graceful things in life.”8 Mortensen etched the original negative to remove unwanted detail. He then elongated the image during the enlargement process and made the projection through a texture screen. For details about his printmaking methods, including the Abrasion-Tone Process he used to make this image, see William Mortensen, Print Finishing, San Francisco: Camera Craft Publishing, 1938. © William Mortensen. Machiavelli, from the book Monsters and Madonnas, 1936. 10¼ × 8¼ inches. Abrasion-tone gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Robert Hirsch Collection.


The 1920s was a period of great artistic experimentation, and at the forefront, dealing with the "realm of the fantastic,” was the innovative Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy, who sought a purely photographic approach independent of all previous forms of representation. Moholy urged investigation into "the new culture of light” so that "the strongest visual experiences that could be granted to man” could be made available through its understanding and use. He wanted to use photography to show what the human eye alone could not see, and wrote: "This century belongs to light. Photography is the first means of giving tangible shape to light, though in a transposed and—perhaps just for that reason—almost abstract form.”9 In "Production–Reproduction,”10 Moholy took the position that mediums primarily used for reproduction, such as photography and film, could be reduced to their most elemental level and then extended on a new, innovative course. For Moholy, "reproduction” stood for imitative or repetitive relationships. "Production” signified the new forms, such as his photograms, appropriate to the world of technology, that make "new, previously unknown relationships . . . between the known and as yet unknown optical.”

Figure 1.17 Inspired by her own Vietnam War era photomontage series, 30 years later Rosler rethought and reinterpreted this work in the context of the Iraq War. Instead of embracing twenty-first century digital montage techniques, she used the same manual cut-and-paste technique she employed in the original work, drawing a further parallel between the two conflicts. The issues of protest and activism Rosler raises in this work links her with early montage artists, such as John Heartfield and Hannah Höch, whose photomontages also protested and satirized politics and war. © Martha Rosler. Lounging Woman, from the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful. 24 × 20 inches. Photomontage.

Moholy's practice of montage, which he called fotoplastik,11 was based on the surrealist method of recording the unconscious, but without the movement's attachment to the irrational. Moholy saw his approach as an experimentally disciplined and judicious strategy to achieve an art form that struck a balance between reason and spirit, and between people and their culture. His photomontages relied on the graphic suprematist forms of the circle, cone, and spiral to create multi-perspective compositions. This scheme disturbed Renaissance perspective and its companion formulas for acquiring knowledge through images. Moholy's photomontages juxtaposed contrasting imagery in open compositions, with much of the surrounding space left intentionally blank. The resulting interplay of movement between the fragmented images and the stillness of the unused space applied both optical and psychological pressure on viewers to recreate the same commotion and unstableness they experienced in modern daily life.

Figure 1.18 Carey's cameraless image revisits the photogram, exploring light and four-color photographic theory. To construct this photogram, "the pins are placed directly and at random into the paper's surface in the color darkroom and the paper is exposed multiple times using a color enlarger.” Carey values the positive and negative elements as well as the aspects of shadow and light at work in the photogram process, concepts she looks into throughout her experimentation with light to create undefined, abstract expressions. © Ellen Carey. Push Pin Photogram (B/Y/R/G), 2002. 24 × 20 inches. Chromogenic color print.


The antithesis of Group f/64 can be found in the images and writings of William Mortensen, as in his essay "Fallacies of 'Pure Photography'” (1934), which rejected the notion of previsualization and the so-called "straight” print and the doctrine of singular aperture as being mechanistic. A sterling craftsman, Mortensen urged image makers to manipulate their negatives and prints in any manner to achieve their vision goals. However, despite his expressive ideas on photography, Ansel Adams and key tastemakers, such as Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, shunned Mortensen's work and the concepts that informed it. Additionally, his work featuring nude women in sadomasochistic situations being dominated by men has been labeled politically incorrect, which has had the unintended side effect of throwing the message out with the messenger. During the 1940s and 1950s, the small mainline photographic community ignored nonstraightforward approaches, with a few exceptions such as work done by Henry Holmes Smith, Richard Hamilton, and Wallace Berman.

Figure 1.19 Wood's collage work is based on postvisualization, experimenting with how varying image placement affects meaning. He says, "I started working with photo collages at the Institute of Design in Chicago in the early 1950s. My work in the 1960s was process oriented. I used images from newspapers, magazines, television, and my own resources. Generally, the collages were carefully dry mounted to archival board and invariably had a political commentary. This activity continues up to the present time.” © John Wood. Nixon and Agnew (Pop Goes the Weasel), circa 1960s. 7¾ × 9¾ inches. Gelatin silver print with mixed media.

The 1960s was a time of experimentation in Western society: questioning how and why things were done, trying new procedures, and eliciting fresh outcomes. A rising interest in countercultural ideas sparked a renewal of interest in numerous forgotten photographic printmaking processes and sent many photographers back into photographic history to rediscover alternative techniques and encouraged new directions in image making. This revival of historical methods surfaced with the national recognition Jerry Uelsmann received for his surrealistic use of combination printing that visualized the unconscious working of his mind by the seeming irrational juxtaposition of images, which spread to nonsilver approaches such as cyanotypes and gum printing.

During an era that emphasized a sense of mind-expanding possibilities, the concept of postvisualization, in which a photographer could continue to interact with the image at any stage of the process, was reintroduced into the repertoire of acceptable practices. Image makers such as Robert Heinecken, Ray Metzker, Bea Nettles, and John Wood began to reject the notion of a single fixed perspective and actively sought alternative viewpoints. Such artists shared a desire for subjective expression, a confidence in the untamed imagination, and an aversion to dogma and fixity in order to question conventional photography, to convey internal realities, and to critique history and the concepts of truth and self. In addition to opening up an avenue to inner experience, artists find handwork attractive because it promotes inventiveness, allows for the free play of intuition beyond the control of the intellect, extends the time of interaction with an image (on the part of both the maker and the viewer), and allows for the inclusion of a wide range of materials and processes within the boundaries of photography.

In the late 1960s, experimental image makers began to cut and paste and make use of quick-copy centers, rubber stamps, and old, unwanted printing equipment as they rediscovered the artist-made book as a vehicle to express diaristic and narrative themes as well as those of dreams, friendship, love, sequential time, and social-political issues.

Figure 1.20 Nettles' work reflects the concepts of the investigational spirit of postvisualization, with her multiple methods of hand-altering and ongoing interaction with the image throughout the picture making process. Working with the defunct Kwik Print process, she contact printed large ortho negatives multiple times onto the light-sensitive pigment of the Kwik Print process that she had applied onto a sheet of white vinyl serving as the image support base. Nettles further altered the image by scrubbing areas of the pigment after exposure. © Bea Nettles. Three Deer, from the book Flamingo in the Dark, 1978. 20 × 26 inches. Kwik Print. Courtesy of Ilene Shane Collection.

Starting in the 1960s, art departments began adding photography to their curriculum, which encouraged cross-pollination with other media—mixing photography with drawing, painting, and printmaking. This reflected the growing influence of young innovative artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, whose experiments using photography in combination with other media had a profound impact on the visual arts.

Figure 1.21 Beard is known for his collage diaries, which he started compiling in 1949 at the age of 11. After discovering photography, he used photographs to extend and enhance them, constructing collages that bear connections to museum dioramas. After reading Karen Blixen's Out of Africa (1937), Beard traveled to Africa to photograph wildlife, later combining these photographs with animal blood, remains, and ephemera. Beard says, "I like to think of photography as life-thickening. At the end of the year you've got a fat book that you never would have had if you weren't keeping a diary. You wouldn't have thought so much could happen in a year. I was always marking time, waiting for something to happen to me.” © Peter Beard. Reflections in Natural History, 1965/2004. 165 × 65 inches. Gelatin silver print and color collage with found objects mounted to board.


Robert Heinecken, a printmaker at UCLA, promoted new ways one could be a photographer. In a 1969 "debate” with Ansel Adams at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Heinecken announced that he and other up-and-coming artists with maverick and rebellious natures had every intention of upending the dominant modernist, objective concepts of photography in their broad desire to challenge conventional systems of thought.12 A gadfly who provoked by example, Heinecken used the elements of play and wonder to question everyday assumptions and seek out associations among presumably divergent subjects. His work combined various mediums to fashion witty, sardonic, and unexpected cultural connections among food, the media, sex, and violence. Heinecken referred to himself as a "paraphotographer—one who uses "found” photographs rather than going out and making them. Art critic Arthur Danto later used the term Photographist to describe the distinction between photographers who make "photography as art” and those concerned with "photography in art."13

Heinecken's subject matter, his appropriation of existing images, and the constructed appearance of his finished work—which can be 3-D—all make his approach the antithesis of the straight photography that was dominant in the 1960s and that Ansel Adams, with his transcendental landscapes, quintessentially represented. But even Adams came to acknowledge alternative ways of circulating images by allowing one of his Yosemite photographs to be reproduced on a coffee can (1969), which effectively conveyed his environmental concerns by recycling disposable consumer trash into a collectable object (see Figure 9.5 of a Hills Brothers coffee can featuring a archetypal Ansel Adam's image of Yosemite Valley, CA, which Jo Babcock made into a pinhole camera).

Figure 1.22 In his Are You Rea series, Heinecken contact printed magazine pages with sexually suggestive photographs of women so both sides of each page could be seen simultaneously as a single blended image. This methodology reveals unexpected visual and textual interactions, in turn generating new ways of seeing and thinking about images. The fragmentation of the text is particularly provocative and is indicative of an anti-illustrative impulse toward evocative and unhindered interpretation. Could "Rea” stand for real, ready, or reasonable? The intuitiveness and openness of Heinecken's technique exemplifies a nondoctrinaire approach to the sexually charged material, suggesting that social truth is variable and unstable. © Robert Heinecken. Are You Rea #1, from the series Are You Rea, 1966. 11 × 8½ inches. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Pace MacGill Gallery, New York.

Extending Photographic Boundaries

Peter C. Bunnell was a groundbreaking promoter of handmade photography in his role as a curator. The year before the Heinecken/Adams debate, Bunnell mounted Photography as Printmaking at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, an exhibit that featured 72 works by 55 artists. One of the artists was Naomi Savage, whom Bunnell credited with having "extended the photographic medium by her presentation of the photoetched plate itself. A simple act, but in its generosity she has brought to the medium a kind of topographic photograph, which modulates forms in three dimensions with a variety of metallic surfaces and tones."14 The three-dimensionality and varied texture Savage utilized to explore the complex relationship between internal and external experience and the indefinite boundaries between the two were so unusual that viewers could not always accept her work as photography. Savage's prominence in Photography as Printmaking demonstrated a parallel between the technical liberation that this new generation of artists practiced and social emancipation that heralded a widening role for women in art world.

In 1970 Bunnell followed Photography as Printmaking with Photography Into Sculpture, a MoMA exhibition that featured works by 52 artists. This exhibit showed how artists were carrying the three-dimensionality of work like Savage's to even greater lengths and embracing "a new kind of photography in which many of the imaginary qualities of the picture, particularly spatial complexity, have been transformed into actual space and dimension.”15 This embrace of three-dimensionality in photography broke emphatically from the modernist dictum that no artistic medium should take on attributes of any other medium.

Bunnell's innovative exhibitions showed a larger audience that photography's essence is nothing more than light sensitive material on a surface. The exhibitions also recognized that the way a photograph is perceived and interpreted is established by artistic and societal preconceptions about how a photographic subject is supposed to look and what is accepted as truthful. The work Bunnell presented was indicative of a larger zeitgeist of the late 1960s that involved leaving the safety net of custom, exploring how to be more aware of and physically connected to the world, and critically examining expectations with regard to lifestyles.16 For the artists in these exhibitions the camera-defined image was only a beginning that inspired a "postvisualized” image, brought about by their direct physical involvement in its creation.

Unfortunately, during his reign as the director of MoMA's photography department, John Szarkowski showed little interest in experimentation while actively promoting straight photography as exemplified by Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and William Eggleston.

Figure 1.23 Savage's efforts prompted a reconsideration of the limits and definitions of photography. This work, which exists only in photographic plate form, demands the inclusion of unprinted photographic objects to the conceptual boundaries of the field. Her extension of the medium by broadening of the techniques and roles associated with photo-based imagery expands visual horizons and connotations. © Naomi Savage. Enmeshed Man, 1966. 10 × 7¾ inches. Photographic plate. Courtesy of Peter C. Bunnell Collection, Princeton, NJ.


In 1966 Jerry Uelsmann, who taught at the University of Florida, Gainesville, articulated the concept of postvisualization in a paper he delivered at a Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference in Chicago. Urging photographers to consider the darkroom to be "a visual research lab; a place for discovery, observation and mediation,” he went on to say, "Let us not be afraid to allow for ‘postvisualization.' By postvisualization I refer to the willingness on the part of the photographer to revisualize the final image at any point in the entire photographic process.”17 Uelsmann's remarks focused on the darkroom as the place of photographic creation. He and other photographers respond intensely to the solitariness of the darkroom experience. The dimly glowing light, the sound of trickling water, and the acrid smells of acetic acid and fixer rising from the sink create an otherworldly environment that alters customary space and time, spurring the senses to privately circumvent the confines of familiarity and predictability. This manual, measured dreamworld of picture making is widely divergent from the high tech, bright glowing screens of a digital workspace where one is likely to be multitasking as a mechanized printer noisily translates pixels into minuscule rows of sprayed ink to form an image.

Uelsmann's darkroom creations revived the art of combination printing. With consummate skill, he exposed his light sensitive paper through a series of enlargers, each holding a different negative. The results disturbed the conventions of the photographic time/space continuum. Uelsmann enhanced the provocativeness of his imagery with poetic titles, such as Small Woods Where I Met Myself (1967).

Figure 1.24 In the predigital 1960s, Uelsmann revived the manual process of combination printing. With magician-like craftsmanship, he utilizes numerous negatives to create surreal juxtapositions that viewers know cannot reflect outer reality. Yet his pictures remain believable because of the general belief in the truth of the photographic image. Uelsmann writes: "For me the darkroom (containing eight enlargers) functions as a visual research laboratory. . . . I believe that almost anything you can think of is worth trying. It is difficult to make a qualitative judgment in the initial stages of the creative process.” © Jerry Uelsmann. Small Woods Where I Met Myself, 1967. 16 × 20 inches. Gelatin silver print.

Such images did not provide the concise photographic message that people had grown to expect from their experiences with mass media, such as Life magazine, in which editorial committees embedded photographs in highly tendentious text that was designed to insure that the viewers were getting the "right” message. Uelsmann's sense of fantasy defied these expectations by opening a private window into a reality that grasps the inwardness of a subject that lies beyond its external form. This approach can be linked to the Japanese concept of "shashin,” which states that something is only true when it integrates both the external appearance and the inner makeup of a subject. Uelsmann's art fosters an open, dynamic relationship between artist, subject, and viewer. Small Woods Where I Met Myself can be interpreted as a reflection of American society's growing sense of doubt about everything from abortion, to the Vietnam War, to the possibility of assigning meaning to art or life. The work signals the growing awareness that meaning is unfixed and changes according to the interplay between the maker's intentions and the viewer's understanding. Where there had once been a sense of assurance, ambiguity now prevailed.

Figure 1.25 According to Mike Starn, the sun controls this species of butterflies. When it shines they fly and when there are clouds they fall to the ground. "Up and down all day long, they seem to create an idiotic poetry of puppets, creating an embarrassing metaphor for ourselves. Enlarging our perspective, we see the dominance of the sun over the earth and humanity, revealing that we are nothing more than a meaningless silhouette, a shadow, and shadows have control.” The butterfly was illuminated with a ring flash and photographed with extension tubes to get sufficient enlargement onto Polaroid Positive/Negative film, which was used to print onto a hand-coated silver emulsion, and toned in Kodak Brown Toner. © Doug and Mike Starn. Attracted to Light, 1997–99. 20 × 20 inches. Toned silver emulsion. Courtesy of Artists ' Rights Society, New York.


Revisualizing Time

In the 1970s and 1980s other artists began revisualizing ways of representing time on a more personal than historic scale, as in the manner of Marcel Proust. In attempting to regain his personal past, Proust was acutely aware of both the instability of memory and its importance in defining one's position in the world. Proust comprehended the volatility of time and our tentative grasp of it. Many artists who have worked with handmade photography, such as Mike and Doug Starn, have a similar understanding. The Starns reject the notion that a moment in time can be grasped or that time is neatly linear. They construct work in a way that embraces the fluidity of time. This can be seen in Double Rembrandt with Steps, 1987, which hints that the past can easily invade the present. The Starns also comment on the force of time on photographs themselves. Photographs may resurrect the past, but as the Starns so emphatically demonstrate with their splash-toned, Scotch-taped images mounted with push pins, photographs themselves are fragile objects with limited life spans.

Handmade Photography and Alternative Spaces

Rather than breaking new curatorial ground that defines contemporary practice, major museums continue to be dominated by the art market's structure of pricing and marketing to determine who and what is important. An ongoing modernist critique sees handmade photography as a mongrel of doubtful pedigree because it mixes "pure” photography with techniques attributed to other media. But for handmade practitioners, this is precisely the point. Their purpose is to reveal the other self, not the one we present in daily life, but the one that passionately represents our phantasmagoria—images like those seen in dreams. Their methods suit their purpose. If they are to challenge and expand the standards that define visual reality, then they cannot be expected to stop at the boundaries of a medium out of consideration for its purity. They have no qualms about implementing Man Ray's adage: "A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea”.18

Figure 1.26 Rayner's work involves phantasmagoria with its reappropriation of memory-addled vintage photographs. She states, "I look at the volatile places in our brains where memory plays with reality, deception and misconception tangle with truth, emotions arouse the intellect, critical thinking grapples with intuition, and the logical and the inexplicable tease each other.” Rayner's mixed media process begins by recapturing found photographs, which she prints at two different sizes. She then places the two photographs opposite each other in an open cigar mold, casts beeswax over both photographs, and removes different amounts of the beeswax from the two images in order to suggest shifting and fading of memory. © Beverly Rayner. Memory Experiment #1: Diminishing Returns (detail), 1999. 22 × 13 × 4 inches. Chromogenic color prints with mixed media. Courtesy of Maylee Noah Collection.

In their eagerness, indeed delight, in mixing media, handmade photographers embrace the postmodern view that purity is not possible or desirable and that to pursue it is misguided dogma. During the 1970s such thinking gave rise to the workshop movement and alternative spaces, including CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Light Factory, Charlotte, NC; Light Work, Syracuse, NY; Photo Resource Center, Boston, MA and Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY, which provided gathering places to exchange ideas, training, exhibition, and publishing opportunities for experimental approaches for underrepresented artists and their work.

Figure 1.27 Born in Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge invasion of his village forced the artist's family to immigrate to the US when he was a child. While a young boy in Vietnam, he learned grass-mat weaving from his aunt, a skill which decades later influenced the development of his handmade photographic weaving. Lê utilizes his weaving method to visualize the intermingling of the identities that emerge from those living in two different cultures. Now Lê spends much of his time in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, where he founded a not-for-profit artists' space devoted to contemporary Vietnamese art. © Dinh Lê. Untitled, 2007. 76½ × 53 inches. Woven chromogenic color prints and linen tape. Courtesy of PPOW Gallery, New York.

Electronic Imaging: New Ways of Seeing

Digital imaging started to surface in the scientific community during the mid-1950s, when Russell A. Kirsch made one of the first digital images. Along with other scientists working at the National Bureau of Standards, Kirsch created one of the first digital scanners. By the 1960s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was using digitized images produced from its Surveyor landing craft in 1966 and 1968 to formulate never-before-seen composite photographs of the moon's surface, which were of great interest to artists and the public. Yet it was not until the late 1980s, with the advent of affordable home computer graphics workstations, that digital image manipulation became a viable means for creating photographs. Digital image manipulation has removed the burden of absolute truth from photography. By doing so it has revolutionized how images are created and caused a conceptual shift from photography as a medium that records reality to one that can transform it. In the late 1960s, Sonia Landy Sheridan incubated the notion of a Generative Systems Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was conceived as a way to provide artists and scientists the opportunity to investigate new means of image production, which included electrostatic photocopy machines, video, and computer-generated images, and it offered its first course in 1970. What followed has been an explosive new set of technical possibilities that have enabled a vast extension of new and diverse voices to be seen.

Effects of Digital Aesthetic

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, digital imaging, originally considered an alternative process, has come to dominate professional photographic practice. Its rise has produced hybrid works, known as New Media, a mixture of approaches and technologies utilizing computing power that often feature interactivity between the work and its audience.

At first the seeming ease with which computers allow Image makers to realize their aims brought about a decrease in the use of handmade techniques. However, an unintended side effect of digital imagery has been wider acceptance of the fundamental premises of handmade photography and how it may legitimately be manipulated to express a range of ideas. Additionally, a reaction to digital image making has resulted in a revitalized interest in handmade techniques. One of the values of handmade techniques over digital algorithms is that when one manually engages in the making of art, one may allow the physical doing itself to guide the appearance and meaning of the creative endeavor. This disparity between handmade and digital methods has led some to suggest that they are so different that they should be considered as entirely separate ways of working, even if they can produce similar results. Be that as it may, more artists appear to be experimenting with hand processes now than in any time since the late 1980s (see "Resource Guide” at end of chapter).

Figure 1.28 Eide explores photographic time by manually interrupting his film's printing process. To create this image, he sent a digital photograph of a Dutch landscape to his film recorder. At first, he used the recorder according to normal operation, but before printing the photograph to 35mm film, Eide disrupted the process by freezing and crashing his computer. The resulting image exacts a reconsideration of human involvement in the natural world, which Eide further re-examines through his "reconstruction of a post-apocalyptic natural world by building plots of ground from both real and re-imagined dust. This landscape in particular is the byproduct of computer malfunctions. In its new composition, time and context are suspended, providing a meditative emptiness and a window onto a roguish world of warning.” © Peter Eide. Dutch Landscape #12, 2006. 30 × 40 inches. Chromogenic color print.

In spite of postmodernism's assault on the myth of authorship, sense of cultural exhaustion, and sardonic outlook regarding the human spirit, artists who produce handmade photography continue to believe that individuals can make a difference, that originality matters, and that we learn and understand by doing. Embracing imperfection, they find a physically crafted image to be a human image, a flexible one that possesses its own idiosyncratic sense of essence, time, and wonder. Their work can be aesthetically difficult, as it may not provide the audience-friendly narratives and well-mannered compositions some people expect. But sometimes this is necessary to get us to set aside the ordained answers to the question: "What is a photograph?” and allow us to recognize photography's remarkable diversity in form, structure, representational content, and meaning. This acknowledgment grants artists the freedom and respect to explore the full photographic terrain, to engage the medium's broad power of inquiry, and to present the wide-ranging complexity of our experiences, beliefs, and feelings for others to see and contemplate.

Possessing a Sense of History

There is much to be learned from studying extraordinary photographers of the past. They utilized the range of materials that the medium had to offer. The possibilities of photography excited them, and the complexity of the process fired their imaginations. The care that remarkable work reveals suggests the mastery of tasks needed to perform visual feats. Accomplished practitioners are not afraid to experiment or to fail. Their images are produced out of knowledge and commitment. This enables them to create complex works with the power to endure because they do not hold anything back. Going forward from a foundation of knowledge, the image maker is in a position to carry out the Irish writer Oscar Wilde's aphorism: "The duty we owe to history is to rewrite it,” or in the photographic sense, to re-image history.

Figure 1.29 Greene's acts of documenting the body reference late nineteenth century ethnography processes. Employing her own body as subject, Greene's documentation process functions as a reconsideration of how her identity is perceived by outsiders and how of her own history is intertwined with social history. She questions, "Am I nothing but black? Do my strong teeth make me a strong worker? Does my character resonate louder than my skin tone?” Her use of the nineteenth century ambrotype process allows her to create images that are simultaneously modern and historic. Her process is informed by Mark and France Scully Osterman's text The Wet-Plate Process: A Working Guide (2002). See Chapter 10 for process details. © Myra Greene. Untitled, from the series Character Recognition, 2006. 3 × 4 inches. Ambrotype on black glass.

Resource Guide

Blacklow, Laura. New Dimensions in Photo Processes: A Step by Step Manual for Alternative Techniques, Fourth Edition, Boston, MA: Focal Press, 2007.

Barnier, John. Coming into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing Processes. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2000.

Bunnell, Peter C. "Photography As Printmaking,” in Bunnell, Peter C., Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Bunnell, Peter C. "Photography Into Sculpture,” in Bunnell, Peter C., Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Crawford, William. The Keepers of Light: A History & Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan & Morgan, 1979.

Davis, Keith F. An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital. The Hallmark Photographic Collection. Second Edition, revised and enlarged. Kansas City, MO: Hallmark Cards in Association with Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Eisinger, Joel. Trace & Transformation: American Criticism of Photography in the Modernist Period. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Frizot, Michel (Ed.). A New History of Photography. English version. Cologne: Könemann, 1998.

Green, Jonathan. American Photography: A Critical History 1945 to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984.

Henisch, Heinz K., and Bridget A. Henisch. The Photographic Experience 1839–1914: Images and Attitudes. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

Hirsch, Robert. "Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969–2002.” exposure, vol. 36, no. 1, cover and pp. 23–42, 2003.

Hirsch, Robert. Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography, Second Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009.

James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Second Edition, Clifton Park, NY: Delmar/Cengage Learning, 2008.

Marien, Mary Warner. Photography: A Cultural History, Second Edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Newhall, Beaumont. The History of Photography, Revised Edition, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1982.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography, Third Edition, New York: Abbeville Press, 1997.

Stone, Jim (Ed.). Darkroom Dynamics: A Guide to Creative Darkroom Techniques. Marblehead, MA: Curtin & London, 1979.

Taft, Robert. Photography and the American Scene: A Social History, 1839–1889. New York: Dover Publications, 1964.

Uelsmann, Jerry N. "Post-Visualization,”, 1967.

Out-of-print photographic literature contact: Andrew Cahan Bookseller, Ltd:

End Notes

  1. Einstein theorized that time must change according to the speed of a moving object relative to the frame of reference of an observer. Scientists have tested this theory through experimentation—proving, for example, that an atomic clock ticks more slowly when traveling at a high speed than it does when it is at a standstill.
  2. In 1822, Daguerre opened his first 350 seat diorama. The diorama consisted of a dark circular chamber in which large painted scenes were represented on translucent linen. Each picture was seen through a 2800 square foot calico "window” that was painted half opaque. The opaque portion was frontally lit and the translucent part was illuminated from behind, producing an illusion that the picture emitted a radiant light and was not on a flat surface. The color, brightness, and direction of the light was controlled through a system of cords, pulleys, shutters, and slides, and its pictorial effects soon included real animals, stage props, and sound effects. The diorama was an immediate success and Daguerre later built an elaborate 200 seat amphitheater in London, capable of pivoting viewers from scene to scene.
  3. Abbozzo is Italian for sketch. In painting, it refers to the first outline or drawing on the canvas; also to the first underpainting.
  4. Shaw, George Bernard, Preface, Photographs By Mr. Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1906, in Jay, Bill, and Margaret Moore (Eds), Bernard Shaw on Photography, Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1989, p. 103.
  5. Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Arendt, Hannah (Ed.), Walter Benjamin, Illuminations. English translation. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1968, pp. 219–253. Although published in 1936, this essay did not widely enter into academic discussions of photography until the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  6. Keiley, Joseph T. "The Linked Ring,” Camera Notes, vol. 5, no. 2, October 1901, p. 113.
  7. Grosz, George. "Randzeichnungen zum Thema,” Blätter der Piscatorbühne (Berlin, 1928); trans. in Selz, Peter. "John Heartfield's Photomontages,” The Massachusetts Review, vol. 4, no. 2, Winter 1963, unp.
  8. Mortensen, William. "Fallacies of ‘Pure Photography'.” Camera Craft, 41, 1934, pp. 260–261.
  9. All quotes in this paragraph from Moholy-Nagy, László. "Unprecedented Photography,” 1927; reprinted in Phillips, Christopher. Photography in the Modern Era: European Documents and Critical Writings, 1913–1940. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Aperture, 1989, pp. 83–85.
  10. Moholy-Nagy, László. "Produktion–Reproduktion,” De Stijl (Leiden), vol. 5, no. 7, July 1922, as in Phillips, Christopher. Photography in the Modern Era: European Documents and Critical Writings, 1913–1940. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Aperture, 1989, pp. 79–82.
  11. Fotoplastik was the term Moholy used to separate his photomontages from the montages of the Dadaists. A completed fotoplastik was a finished collage that was photographed by Lucia Moholy and altered in the printing to produce a series of variant images, such as a negative print. The titles, also done with Lucia Moholy, were not intended to be descriptive and were often colloquialisms or made-up words that defy translation.
  12. See Eisinger, Joel. Trace & Transformation: American Criticism of Photography in the Modernist Period. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1995, particularly Chapter 2, "Straight Photography,” pp. 52–78.
  13. See Coleman, A. D., and Lynne Warren (Eds), Robert Heinecken: Photographist. Chicago, IL: Museum of Contemporary Photography, 1999, p. 4.
  14. The Museum of Modern Art did not publish a catalogue for this show. However, Bunnell's comments are available in Bunnell, Peter C. "Photography As Printmaking,” in Bunnell, Peter C., Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 153–154.
  15. Bunnell, Peter C. "Photography Into Sculpture,” in Bunnell, Peter C., Degrees of Guidance: Essays on Twentieth-Century American Photography. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 164.
  16. This could be seen in the large numbers of young people experimenting with mind-altering drugs, practicing transcendental meditation, yoga, and Zen, pursuing alternative life-styles in communes as part of the "back to the land” movement, resisting the draft, and forming radical groups such as the Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society.
  17. Uelsmann, Jerry N. "Post-Visualization,” 1967,, 10/17/02.
  18. Ray, Man. "The Age of Light” [1934], Photographs by Man Ray: 105 Works, 1920–1934. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1980, unp. Baldwin, Neil. Man Ray: American Artist. New York: Da Capo Press, 1988.


History, Criticism, and Commentary

Featured photographer: Robert Hirsch, Joel-Peter Witkin, Jerry Spagnoli, Mark Jacobs, Blue Mitchell, Timothy Tracz, Brigitte Carnochan, S. W. Fallis, Renee Billingslea, Karl Baden, Heather Wetzel, Fred Clatworthy, Robert Dawson, George Tice, William Mortensen, Martha Rosler, Ellen Carey, John Wood, Bea Nettles, Peter Beard, Robert Heinecken, Naomi Savage, Jerry Uelsmann, Doug Starn, Mike Starn, Beverly Rayner, Dinh Lê, Peter Eide, Myra Greene

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