The cyanotype was one of the earliest photographic processes and with its rich, blue color, remains one of the most beautiful. Invented in 1842 by the amazingly prolific Sir John Herschel, the easy-to-produce cyanotype lives on today in the darkrooms of many photographers and artists.
The Kodak Brownie camera was one of the most popular cameras in the history of photography. The Brownie popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot to a public eager to preserve their personal and family memories. With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use.
When light sensitive material is exposed to light, a chemical change happens, but this change isn’t necessarily visible. This idea is perhaps part of why early photographers – and early viewers of photographic images – had a hard time with the concept of the latent image, yet it was one of the most important components of the technology of photography in its infancy.
The photographs of pioneer color photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky (1863–1944) give us a remarkable view into a world that is now lost – the Russian Empire just before the Russian Revolution and World War I. In this podcast we explore both Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographs and the unique tri-color photographic technique he employed to create them.
Tina Modotti (1896 – 1942) was an Italian photographer who was most active in Mexico between 1923 and 1930. Known for her romantic and business relationship with Edward Weston and her friendships with Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo and other Mexican artists, Modotti was also a political activist during the Mexican Revolution and beyond.
John Szarkowski’s book Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Artis one of the best ways to learn not only about the history of photography, but also about photography’s aesthetics as well. Szarkowski, the former Director of the Department of Photography at MOMA from 1962 to 1991, pairs 100 photographs with a brief and insightful essay. The combination of image and text causes the reader/viewer to go back and forth and as you look at each photograph repeatedly, you add to the richness of your own viewing.
Photographer Gordon Parks, born 1912 and died 2006, was one of the most important figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, race relations, poverty, civil rights and honest depictions of urban life, Parks’ work provides an amazing chronicle important aspects of American urban life in the last half of the 20th century.
Photographer James Van Der Zee was active from the 1920s through the late 1970s, working primarily in his native Harlem neighborhood in New York city. Through his elegant portraits and images of social, religious and athletic groups, he created an intimate narrative about his community, showing the world a part of America that was rarely seen.
When the exhibition The Family of Man opened in January of 1955, 60 years ago this month, visitors were greeted by more than 500 photographs and these words by the poet Carl Sandburg:
“People! Flung wide and far, born into toil, struggle, blood and dreams, among lovers, eaters, drinkers, workers, loafers, fighters, players, gamblers. Here are ironworkers, bridgemen, musicians, sandhogs, miners, builders of huts and skyscrapers, jungle hunters, landlords and the landless, the loved and the unloved, the lonely and the abandoned, the brutal and the compassionate-one big family hugging close to the ball of Earth for its life and being.”
Photographer Lisette Model, born in Vienna, Austria in 1901 and died 1983, was an important street photographer of the early 20th century, defining much of what would be considered part of the street photographer’s aesthetic for decades to come.