Photography: A Short Critical History

Photography: A Short Critical History

Photography: A Short Critical History

Photography: A Short Critical History

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to construct a foundation by which the significance of photography as an esthetic medium can be more fully grasped. The approach is historical: in the spontaneous origin of photography lies the course of its future development. Within a dozen years after its formal publication, all the subsequent applications of photography were clearly envisaged; years later, when social demands became sufficiently stimulating, Daguerre's dreams of color photography; Talbot's visions of infra-red exposures in total darkness; Millet's prophecies of "candid" portraiture and many other ideals became realities. The confusion with other forms of graphic art which it superficially resembles was also latent in photography's origin; the remedying of this harmful confusion, therefore, must be based on an examination of photography's relationship to other arts during its short, but eventful, development. The following pages are not intended to cover the purely technical history of photography. The scientific aspects are discussed only so far as they vitally affect the esthetic ends of the medium.

In the Spring of 1937 the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition "Photography 1839-1937," which subsequently toured the country. The introduction and plates to the catalog of that exhibition form the body of this book. The text has been revised in part, and considerable hitherto uncollected data has been included in the outlines forming the Biographical Index, which takes the place of the now obsolete catalog lists of the original publication.

Thanks are due to all those who made the exhibition possible, particularly the Honorary Advisors, Alexey Brodovitch, C. E. Kenneth Mees, L. Moholy-Nagy, Charles Peignot, Paul Rotha, D. A. Spencer and Edward Steichen, and to the many individuals, both here and abroad, who allowed the Museum to borrow photographs from their collections for a period of over a year. In the preparation of this edition, the Museum renews its thanks to the owners of the photographs which are reproduced; their names are given in the List of Plates. In making textual . . .

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