April 4 - May 29, 2015
The first photographers were inventors, scientists or those mechanically inclined—the grinding of lenses and the chemical processes were often of more interest to them than the artfulness of the images created. Artful or not, it was immediately apparent how extraordinarily effective photography was at depicting with accuracy the world in front of the camera. Artists became captivated by the new technology. They could easily record a portrait, a view, or a moment in time and revisit it as reference material for their work. Edgar Degas was among the 19th century painters who embraced photography. It’s possible to infer the influence of the technology on his painting from the cropped figures and framing of his subjects.
Ever since Nicéphore Niépce, Hércules Florence and Henry Fox Talbot developed fixable photography in the 19th century, there has been debate whether the medium could evolve beyond its use as a documentary tool. The Pictorialism movement of the late 1800s to early 1900s aimed to bring respect to photography as an art form. Pictorialist works would often be soft focus, toned images with the surfaces enhanced to mimic qualities of drawing or engraving. Edward Steichen was a Pictorialist who had trained as a painter. Along with Alfred Stieglitz he opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession. The gallery and Stieglitz’ magazine Camera Work actively promoted photography as a fine art.