OBJECT:PHOTO shifts the dialogue about modernist photography from an emphasis on the subject and the image to the actual photographic object, created by a certain artist at a particular time and present today in its unique physicality. This shift is especially significant for a study of the period during which photography developed a distinctive formal language. A growing awareness of the rarity of images made between the two world wars has altered historians considerations, encouraging new approaches privileging the originality of each work and the density of references each contains. This richly illustrated publication culminates a four-year collaborative research endeavor between The Museum of Modern Arts Departments of Photography and Conservation, and nearly 30 visiting scholars, on the material and aesthetic evolution of avant-garde photography in the early twentieth century. The 341 modernist photographs known as The Thomas Walther Collection, a major museum acquisition made in 2001, is presented in its entirety, establishing a new standard of depth for the medium. Essays by curators, researchers, and conservators consider the history of collecting from this era to the present and how deepening knowledge has shifted the perspective on the medium; the material facts of the Walther pictures as a baseline for understanding the development of photographic materials in this era; and how the intellectual formation of the writers of critical photographic publications of the era and the societal and cultural pressures of that historical moment inflected the photographys sense of its own history. Together with thematic, object-based case studies of groups of pictures that demonstrate new approaches in specific, divergent examples, these contributions reanimate the dialogue on this formative era in photography.
In photography, modern work is a moving target. During the first half of the 20th century, photographers experimented with radical new approaches to representation and abstraction to shape modernist imagery. Departing from the conventions of pictorialism, these photographs emphasized sharp focus, straightforward documentation of modern life, and attention to formal qualities through the recognition of the camera as a mechanical and technological tool. In 2001 MoMA acquired more than 300 photographs of this era from the prolific photography collector Thomas Walther, who was born in Berlin and is based in New York City. These pieces became the focus of a collaboration between a group of international photography scholars and MoMA's departments of Photography and Conservation, and four years later their work has culminated in an expansive exhibition presented in the Edward Steichen Photography Galleries. It's accompanied by a hardcover publication, Object Photo: 1909-1949.--The Editors "American Photo "
Departing from the conventions of pictorialism, these photographs emphasized sharp focus, straightforward documentation of modern life, and attention to formal qualities through the recognition of the camera as a machanical and techonological tool.
Mitra Abbaspour is an art historian and curator, formerly Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art.Lee Ann Daffner is Conservator of Photographs at The Museum of Modern Art.Maria Morris Hambourg is the founding curator of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.Quentin Bajac is The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.Jim Coddington has served as The Agnes Gund Chief Conservator at The Museum of Modern Art since 2002.Constance McCabe is Head of the Photograph Conservation Department at The National Gallery of Art.Matthew S. Witovsky is the Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, at The Art Institute of Chicago.