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MoMA’s Modernist Photography Collection Now Available in Book Form

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'Callejón of the Valencia Arena,' 1933. (Henri Cartier-Bresson/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Callejón of the Valencia Arena,’ 1933 (Henri Cartier-Bresson/The Museum of Modern Art)

 

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.

'Wheels,' 1939. (Charles Sheeler/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Wheels,’ 1939 (Charles Sheeler/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Abstraction,' São Paulo. 1949. (Geraldo de Barros/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Abstraction,’ São Paulo, Brazil, 1949 (Geraldo de Barros/The Museum of Modern Art)

 

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.

'New York at Night.' 1932. (Berenice Abbott/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘New York at Night,’ 1932 (Berenice Abbott/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Migrant Mother,' Nipomo, California. 1936. (Dorothea Lange/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Migrant Mother,’ Nipomo, California, 1936 (Dorothea Lange/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Assembling for a Demonstration,' 1928. (Aleksandr Rodchenko/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Assembling for a Demonstration,’ 1928 (Aleksandr Rodchenko/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Runner in the City,' 1928. (El Lissitzky/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Runner in the City,’ 1928 (El Lissitzky/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Untitled,' 1935. (Dora Maar/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Untitled,’ 1935 (Dora Maar/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Blossom.' 1933. (Jay DeFeo/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Blossom,’ 1933 (Jay DeFeo/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Mella’s Typewriter,' 1928. (Tina Modotti/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Mella’s Typewriter,’ 1928 (Tina Modotti/The Museum of Modern Art)
'Young Girl in Circus Caravan,' 1926. (August Sander/The Museum of Modern Art)
‘Young Girl in Circus Caravan,’ 1926 (August Sander/The Museum of Modern Art)
Cover of Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960 (The Museum of Modern Art)
Cover of Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960 (The Museum of Modern Art)