Week 6–American Photography

American Photography: A Century of Images

May 1999 tornado tore up kansas/central oklahoma…thousands lost their homes.

People looking for photos that belong to them that were collected and presented on table after table for people to come and claim. The photos are more important than anything else.

“I couldn’t have dreamed if I had not seen the pictures” “I wouldn’t know what to dream”

photos show what the rest of the world looks like

Photographs are a visual undergrowth that we take for granted but really photographs are life or death,

Photos become a way to how we view a particular era


“you press the button we do the rest”

Feb 1, 1900….a camera called “The Brownie”..only $1…within the reach of the working class….they can have a visual record of their lives. Before the brownie people would have only stiff photos and in studios. Became much more casual…captured a flux of like the way studio photos had not been able to do.

quarter of a million brownies were sold in the first year

people were able to make picture postcards

Luc Sante: postcards

people did photo postcards because now people were able to show what is going on with other family memebers

newspapers used as county fairs, mexican revolution

socialists party…unions…womens political unions

personal sentimental associations began and people kept every photo

of photos were used in books they had to be glues in by hand one at a time

190 gilbert grover…..the national geographic magazine

under pressure to increase circulation due to magazine losing money

received mail of pictures from Tibet and he put the pictures in the magazine…the public loved it…started putting more and more photos in the magazine….started seeing photos from around the world at your doorstep..pioneered the publishing of colored photos….3000 to half a million subscribers in almost 10 years….generations of americans developed their image of the world….it was a way of rationalizing the colonist type of view

Edward Curtis: reflection by Rayna Green 

27 volume documenting photos of what native americans

made it his enterprise to photograph the people he believed would disappear

curtis gave non-indians an image of a world that they wanted in tact…if he didn’t think they looked glamorous enough he would bring out what bonnets to hype up the pictures….he had a trunk of clothing with him that he brought with him to each tribe….Rayna believes the images give us a lie…she wants the pictures of indian daily life,,,she wants the pictures of the reality..the photos of native americans being assimilated into white society…the truth

Snapshot camera

where is the art? critics asked…all you do is push a button

1902 photo pictorials movement 

stealest? (name)…would ness with the photo after it was developed…they would scratch the photo…paint over it aka photoshop….made them look like paintings/drawings…meant to have a sketchiness…brought the human intervention into camera art

scientific management

frank gilberth….studied the fastest workers through film in order to get the fastest output in every worker by eliminating unnecessary movements….died of a heart attack at 55

first decade of the century photos were changing american lives…influence on what people believed….writers always wrote on the poor since Dickens…but now, Jacob Reese included photos on housing reform for the poor….Lewis Hein? (maybe) help make child labor illegal..people were moved and outraged at seeing children working….made photography an essential tool for social change

1915–revolution was in the air

Paul Strand….brought in a portfoliio of prints to his mentor….mentor said “young man this is it..you have created a new and modern art”….straight photography movement of the 20’s…..you took things the way they were and you did not manipulate it….emphasized the selection and the size of the photo….he took the shadows made by a railing of a chair and would turn the photo on its side and you wouldn’t now that it was from a chair…sharp focused realism…

1917–US WW1

one week after americas declaration of war….massive media campaign to rally america and support….any photos of troops was to only raise the morale of the troops….photographers were never near the front line…many photos staged to taken from far away….government censorship…nobody allowed to show photos of a dead american soldier…the actual horrors of war were photographed even though they were censored….later published by those who were against war…showed modern warfare was anything but glorious

Photography added a new dimension to fame….the media celebratory….gangsters/athletes could become famous as long as they looked good in photos….people wanted to know what they did off camera….babe Ruth was the first sports star to have his image used as a commodity…earned millions as a celebratory compared to the 50k from baseball…..created and invented an actors fame/image…hollywood is selling that anybody can become a star….

1913 Rodolfo d’Antonguolla aka Rudolph Valentino 

became famous through silent film and women loved his photos and then became ill…pictures were everywhere….he died of a bursted appendix…he had a front page photo of him in heaven…every paper had front page pictures of him at funeral/in coffin…100,000 people were at the funeral home…over 100 people injured at service….

Extending Vision: Neil degrasse Tyson 

astronomers were looking through their telescope and then would illustrate what they saw…..the human eyes do not compare to what the photograph can capture….the milky way contains billions of stars and the naked eye cannot see it….photographs can capture what the eye cannot see in space………ability to see what is out in the galaxy…enables the 5 senses to be broadened..to be expanded

Postscript: Leonard Nimoy

family kept a connection of their family in the united sates through 2 photos that they were holding onto for 25 years.


Amelia Earheart photo….Bob Barker in war..burning of the Hidenburg

things because to the point that you didn’t have a story if there wasn’t a photo with it

people want to see the negative things…death..murder…fire…shooting…photography lets you see everything…it lets you think of everything

1936 new magazine appeared on newsstands

photographs were used to tell the stories…LIFE Magazine…Henry Luce….politics, tragedy, fashion, cars, advertisement…perfected the photo essay…the photos tell the story….hardly any text or captions…LIFE told people about a world that many people did not have…

over 6 years FSA took over half a million photos..during depression and dust bowl


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