March 16, 2004

Featured Artists


Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Mexican, 1902–2002

As a student of the habits and customs of the Mexican people, Alvarez Bravo sought out the visual evidence of indigenous cultural traditions. His photographs are marked by divergence and discontinuity, techniques he learned from the theories of the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein and the French poet André Breton, who in 1938 organized an exhibition of Surrealists in Mexico City. Alvarez Bravo elevated anthropology to the level of art by framing the disparity between urban and rural realities into a poetic vision of modern Mexico, its cultural differences and social contradictions.

Diane Arbus
American, 1923–1971

In 1957, after a decade of working almost exclusively in the fashion world—where her subjects were models selected chiefly for their beauty and graceful behavior—Arbus embarked on an independent career as a documentary photographer. Free to explore the world around her, she created a body of work inspired by commonplace family snapshots. Some of her most compelling images focus on the head of a person she met on the street whose awkward expression and unusual adornment become her subject.

Eugène Atget
French, 1857–1927

Atget was concerned with traditional aspects of Parisian life that were becoming obsolete and with buildings of historical significance. Informed by his knowledge of French political and cultural history, Atget examined the textures of overlooked neighborhoods. Shunning the new handheld cameras, Atget used old-style equipment designed to make negatives on 6-by-8-inch sheets of glass. He mounted his camera on a tripod at eye level, parallel to the horizon. Atget’s body of work is so consistent and full of visual delight that it established the model for how a documentary viewpoint in the 20th century can become art.

Anna Atkins
English, 1799–1871

Atkins was attracted to the study of botany and natural history at an early age. She was introduced to the art of photography by her father, George Children, a member of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. Beginning in 1842, Atkins employed the cyanotype process to create an inventory of plant specimens. She was the first person to use light-sensitive materials to catalogue objects and gather that information into books. Atkins was also the first woman to create an extensive body of photographs.

Hippolyte Bayard
French, 1801–1887

Bayard was one of the first photographers to explore the medium to express self-understanding, resulting in a number of engaging self-portraits. He was among the first photographers to observe and record the commonplace details of everyday life. Later photographers, such as Eugène Atget, who is also represented in this exhibition, shared Bayard’s fascination with the topography and iconography of the city of Paris.

Henry P. Bosse
American, 1844–1903

Bosse’s chief subject was the interaction between humans and nature, specifically in regard to the Mississippi River. Through photographs, Bosse illuminated the physical beauty of the great river and its surrounding landscape. He showed human attempts to control nature and how nature resists being controlled. Bosse was one of the first to create photographs that could be used as tools for natural resource planning. He took up the challenge of giving visual identity to the Mississippi River, a landscape with significant man-made alterations extending along 850 miles and across six states.

Brassaï (Gyula Halász)
French, born Hungary, 1899–1984

In photography, the name Brassaï is synonymous with Paris after dark. He established a pattern of "going to bed at sunrise, getting up at sunset," according to his friend, the writer Henry Miller, who made Brassaï a character in his novel Tropic of Cancer. Photography allowed Brassaï to describe and interpret contemporary life with a unique combination of excitement and empathy. His role was that of perceptive witness to cultural life and the forces that shape it.

Julia Margaret Cameron
British, born India, 1815–1879

Cameron, who was the mother of five children and the guardian of several others she adopted, took up photography at the age of 48. She was the first photographer to make the subjects of women and children central to her art. Her unconventional approach to process and materials inspired later photographers, who sought to emulate the painterly effects in her work. Despite their beauty and daring experimental quality, Cameron’s photographs were not actively collected outside her circle of family and friends until almost a century after her death.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
French, born 1908

Cartier-Bresson is the only living photographer represented in this exhibition. Self-taught in photography, he began making pictures in accordance with his fervent belief that firsthand experience is essential for knowledge about life. His passion for new experiences led him to travel widely. Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase "the decisive moment" to describe his journalistic approach to photography, which depended on the speed and flexibility of the miniature Leica 35mm camera. His goal was to capture a single image—one instant in time—that can stand for the entirety of a place or situation.

Thomas Eakins
American, 1844–1916

Eakins trained to be a painter at the École des Beaux-Arts (school of fine arts) in Paris, where drawing was emphasized as the basis for art. Later he learned to use a camera and began to employ photographs as sketches for paintings. In 1879, he was named professor of drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and he became the first professor of art at a public teaching institution to make photography part of an artist’s education.

Walker Evans
American, 1903–1975

In the summer of 1936, Fortune magazine commissioned Evans and the writer James Agee (American, 1909–1955) to document the living conditions of Depression-era sharecroppers in Hale County, Alabama. Their collaboration resulted in a body of work that was noted for its consistently objective viewpoint. Although Fortune rejected the essay, the work was published as a book in 1941, under the title Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans collaborated with Agee again in 1966, with the publication of his subway photographs in the book Many Are Called.

Roger Fenton
English, 1819–1869

Fenton was unique among the pioneers of photography in the extent to which he pursued a wide range of photographic genres: portraiture, architecture, landscape, and still life. The majority of his photographs were made outdoors, including several hundred portraits and landscape photographs behind the scenes of the Crimean War (1853–1856). However, his most original contribution to photography was a series of photographs made indoors under difficult lighting conditions.

Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
French, 1804–1892

Girault de Prangey learned the daguerreotype process in 1841, perhaps from its inventor Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. He was one of the first graduates of Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts (school of fine arts) to employ photography as a creative tool. From 1842-1843, he traveled through Greece, Asia Minor, and North Africa to make daguerreotypes of ancient monuments. Many of his images are the earliest surviving photographs of sites such as the Acropolis and the cities of Cairo and Jerusalem. Girault de Prangey’s body of work is the first to demonstrate a mastery of formal choices-light and shadow, viewpoint, and subject matter.

David Octavius Hill
Scottish, 1802–1870
Robert Adamson
Scottish, 1821–1848

Hill and Adamson were the first photographers to systematically use the camera as a tool for social documentation. Their studies of the fishing community of Newhaven, near Edinburgh, anticipated the use of photography to depict and catalogue types of people for ethnographic, cultural, and social purposes.

Lewis Hine
American, 1874–1940

Hine was employed for a decade as a staff photographer, field researcher, and writer by the National Child Labor Committee. He used pictures to show that employers exploited children. As a teacher at the Ethical Culture School in New York, he instilled the principles of social documentary photography in subsequent generations of American photographers, such as Paul Strand. A social reformer above all, Hine nevertheless considered himself an artist.

Gertrude Käsebier
American, 1852–1934

Käsebier was the first American woman photographer to have earned an international reputation by 1900. Like Julia Margaret Cameron before her, Käsebier made women and children the focus of her attention. She was the first woman to be invited to join the exclusive Photo-Secession circle of photographers, which was founded by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen in 1902 and espoused the fine art qualities of the medium. Preferring unusual materials, such as gum bichromate on Japanese tissue or watercolor paper, Käsebier created work that took on painterly effects, a style referred to as Pictorialist.

André Kertész
American, born Hungary, 1894–1985

Kertész began as a self-taught amateur, pursuing photography when he was not clerking at the Budapest stock exchange. In 1925, he moved to Paris and decided to pursue photography full time. There, he associated with painters, poets, designers, and filmmakers. Kertész gave a psychological twist to many of his photographs and called himself a "naturalist Surrealist." Driven from Paris by the advancing Nazi Army, he moved to New York in 1936 and became a master of using photographs to tell stories without words.

Dorothea Lange
American, 1895–1965

Born in New Jersey and educated in New York City, Lange became interested in photography as a teenager. An assistant in the New York studio of fashion photographer Arnold Genthe, she learned the trade secrets of upscale portrait photography before establishing her own studio in San Francisco in 1918. Her genius, however, was not in the repetition of formulas but in the harnessing of an instinct for unexpected pictures. She brought to portraiture a social and political consciousness, and she was a skillful observer of the way people relate to one another.

William Langenheim
American, born Germany, 1807–1874
Frederick Langenheim
American, born Germany, 1809–1879

The Langenheim brothers were among the first successful entrepreneurs of photographs depicting views of America. William was the business manager, and Frederick operated the camera and produced the pictures. The genius in their partnership was in seeing commercial potential in the new technology of photography. The Langenheims introduced the stereograph in the United States and worked almost exclusively with a twin-lens stereograph camera.

Gustave Le Gray
French, 1820–1884

Le Gray was one of the first to articulate an aesthetic that was specific to photography and to actively instruct others in his method. He experimented with photographic materials to maximize their ability to record subtle effects of light and atmosphere. In this regard, his approach paralleled the concerns of contemporary painters and looked ahead to the Impressionist movement. He also developed new photographic processes and techniques, including the waxed-paper negative, which, before the advent of glass negatives, improved the clarity and resolution of prints.

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky)
American, 1890–1976

About 1915, inspired by meetings with Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray learned photography and became a professional photographer of works of art. Early in his career, he began to regard photography as a highly collaborative process, and he explored the creative potential of the medium’s chemistry and mechanics. He respected the role of the model in his working process. Among his collaborators were the artist Marcel Duchamp, his model and muse Kiki of Montparnasse (Alice Prin), and the photographer Lee Miller.

Lázló Moholy-Nagy
American, born Hungary, 1895–1946

From 1923 to 1928, Moholy-Nagy taught at the Bauhaus, the famed German school of art and design, where he promoted the use of machine-made materials to create art. He proposed that photography be part of the curriculum there and encouraged students to exploit the medium’s potential for creating new types of images. Moholy-Nagy produced a number of completely abstract photographs. By mostly eliminating references to natural forms, he was able to explore the purely formal relationships among light, color, and form.

Eadweard J. Muybridge
American, born England, 1830–1904

Muybridge recognized that time itself could become an element of every photograph. He pushed this idea to its extreme by using multiple cameras to make sequences of photographs that, when viewed in rapid succession, re-created the movement of an animal or a person. Muybridge’s chief contribution was to understand that the value of a sequence of photographs could be greater than that of any single image, thus paving the way for motion pictures.

Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)
French, 1820–1910

Before he dedicated himself to photography in the early 1850s, Nadar was—as he wrote in his autobiography—"a poacher, a smuggler, a bureaucratic functionary, and a fighter for the cause of Polish liberation." His choice of soft overhead light, a seamless monochromatic background, and everyday clothes for his subjects was spare and unusual for photography of the mid-1800s. Nadar combined psychological insight and personal rapport with the luminaries of bohemian Paris to elicit the essential elements of his subjects’ personalities. By making and exhibiting their images, he simultaneously propagated both their celebrity and his own.

Timothy O’Sullivan
American, born Ireland, 1840–1882

O’Sullivan first worked for the celebrated portrait photographer and Civil War picture m

You must be logged in to view this item.

This area is reserved for members of the news media. If you qualify, please update your user profile and check the box marked "Check here to register as an accredited member of the news media". Please include any notes in the "Supporting information for media credentials" box. We will notify you of your status via e-mail in one business day.