2 years ago
Art history can be explored through plenty of cultural and educational institutions, but only a few have had a role in shaping it. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one such institution, and its role in sculpting patrons’ views of modernist photography has been groundbreaking.
In particular, the modernist movement in photography marked a tectonic shift in the medium, injecting it with a greater sense of reality. Prior to the 20th century, most photographs were manipulated—in an analog way, of course—just like many are today using software such as Photoshop or an Instagram filter. Whether they were amended after the fact or staged in advance—like Matthew Brady’s images of the Civil War—pre-modernist photography did not carry the same weight that an image holds today.
Photographers like Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and Robert Frank helped ground the art form by capturing sharply focused, candid frames without any manipulation. Collectively, these artists advanced photography and defined the principles that govern much of its criticism today. The MoMA displayed many of these photographers’ works at the movement’s zenith.
To honor the movement, the MoMA has produced a three-book series dedicated to its collection of modernist photography. Released in November, the series’ second volume, Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960, features 500 images from over 200 artists that epitomize the style, offering an opportunity to explore works of exceptional significance in one canon.
The series’ first book, Photography at MoMA: 1960 to Now, was published in the fall of 2015; and its final chapter, Photography at MoMA: 1840 to 1920, will be released in the fall of 2017. Like its preceding edition, Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960 sells for $75 and is published by the Museum of Modern Art. You can order a copy here. For a brief look at some samples of the modernist movement, enjoy the photos below.