The Birth of Art Photography: From Pictorialism to Modern Photography (1889-1929)
MARCH 30 - JULY 1, 2012
This exhibition focuses on the early history of art photography, especially pictorialism. The latter art movement was born at the end of the 19th century and developed simultaneously in England, France, Germany and Austria. The movement attempted to prove that photography is a form of high art and a means of expression, rather than just the mechanical documentation of reality. In the creation of their work, followers of pictorialism actively interfered in the technological process by using soft focuses, filters and lens covers to imitate various effects, such as rain and fog. They also manipulated processed or semi-processed images by treating them with brushes, scrapers and the like. Pictorialists diligently imitated painting techniques and themes. Alfred Stieglitz's photogravure journal entitled Camera Work (1903-1917) played an important role among pictorialists. It was a quarterly, whose publication was entirely financed by Stieglitz. The last issue of the journal introduced Paul Strand, who was later considered to be the first true modernist photographer. Strangely enough, modernism was the final nail in the coffin of pictorialism. Pictorialism's decline was also hastened by the First World War and when the war ended, photography underwent radical changes. A 'new matter-of-factness' arose in Europe and America, with photomontage and photo collages becoming essential tools. László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray experimented with light and light-sensitive materials. The exhibition, which has a total of 200 works on display, demonstrates the heights of pictorialism. It also presents photo cameras of that era - from the large-scale studio 'machines' made in the 19th century to the compact Leica cameras that were on the market in the 1920s.