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Camara Dia Holloway

(b Virginia, 1825; d Honolulu, HI, May 3, 1904).

African American photographer. Ball’s parents, William and Susan Ball, were freeborn Americans of African descent. J. P. Ball learned how to make daguerreotypes from a black Bostonian, John P. Bailey. He opened his first photographic enterprise in Cincinnati, OH, in 1845. Black-owned businesses seemed viable in this abolitionist stronghold and key conduit to the West. After a failed first venture and time as an itinerant photographer, he returned and opened Ball’s Great Daguerrean Gallery of the West in 1849, which became one of the largest and most successful photographic studios in the region with an enthusiastic multi-racial clientele. Ball hired other African Americans as operators, including his brother, Thomas Ball, his brother-in-law, Alexander Thomas, and the African American landscape painter, Robert S. Duncanson.

An activist for abolition, Ball produced a painted panorama that illustrated the history of African enslavement in 1855 and authored the accompanying pamphlet to great acclaim. With a national reputation and important portrait commissions from such cultural icons as Frederick Douglass and Jenny Lind, Ball expanded with a second studio operated by his brother-in-law who had become a favorite with clients. Together they started an additional studio, the Ball & Thomas Photographic Art Gallery. Ball’s Cincinnati enterprises survived well into the 1880s in the hands of Thomas and other Ball relatives since they remained current with photographic technologies....

Article

Constance W. Glenn

(b Saint Louis, MO, Nov 3, 1903; d New Haven, CT, April 10, 1975).

American photographer and writer. He grew up in Kenilworth, a suburb of Chicago, but moved to New York with his mother after his parents separated. Primarily interested in literature, he sat in on lectures at the Sorbonne in Paris (1926–7), visited museums and bookshops, and thought of becoming a writer. In 1928 he acquired a camera and, out of frustration over his inability to find work and develop a literary means of expression, he decided to become a photographer (see fig.). Intermittent assignments instigated by friends such as Lincoln Kirstein made it possible for him to live a bohemian life in Greenwich Village, where he met the writers Hart Crane (1899–1932) and James Agee (1909–55) and the artist Ben Shahn, with whom he worked and shared a house for a short time. Within this circle he found his early influences (see fig....

Article

(b Hoboken, NJ, May 26, 1895; d Marin County, CA, Oct 11, 1965).

American photographer. From 1914 to 1917 she attended the New York Training School for Teachers and there decided to become a photographer, partly influenced by visits to the photographer Arnold Genthe. From 1917 to 1918 she attended a photography course run by Clarence H. White at Columbia University, New York. Lange moved to San Francisco in 1918, and in 1919 she set up a successful portrait studio where she took works such as Clayburgh Children, San Francisco (1924; Oakland, CA, Mus.). In the late 1920s she became dissatisfied with studio work and experimented with landscape and plant photography, although she found the results unsatisfactory. With the Stock Market crash of 1929 Lange decided to look for subjects outside her studio. Turning to the effects of the economic decline she took photographs such as General Strike, San Francisco (1934; Oakland, CA, Mus.). She had her first solo show at the Brockhurst Studio of Willard Van Dyke in Oakland, CA (...

Article

Ingrid Swenson

British investigative organization founded in 1937 to examine aspects of popular culture. Although Mass Observation was neither an art movement nor a particular school or style, it did attract artists, photographers and film makers who were involved in realist, Surrealist and social documentary practices. Anthropologist Tom Harrisson (1911–76), poet and journalist Charles Madge (b 1912) and painter, poet and documentary film maker Humphrey Jennings (1907–50) announced its formation by calling for volunteers to observe and gather data on subjects ranging from anti-Semitism to the aspidistra cult.

The methodology of Mass Observation was threefold: inviting the ‘masses’ to send in diary-form reports of their everyday lives; gathering scientifically observed data from full- and part-time volunteers; and involving poets, writers and artists by demanding their creative responses to ‘ordinary life’. By 1938 Mass Observation boasted over 1500 observers. Madge and Jennings in particular were involved in British ...

Article

Astrid Schmetterling

(b Miesbach, Upper Bavaria, Aug 21, 1894; d Keilberg, nr Aschaffenburg, Feb 25, 1982).

German painter, collagist, printmaker and photographer. He studied briefly at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich (1913–14) and in 1913 began to make Expressionist woodcuts, which were published in magazines such as Die Aktion (Berlin), Die Weissen Blätter (Leipzig) and Sirius (Zurich). From 1915 to 1920 he lived in Zurich and Geneva, where he was associated with the Dada movement. He continued creating woodcuts but also made reliefs, paintings and collages from newspaper cuttings and other printed papers. At the same time he became interested in abstracting photography and using it in a more metaphoric way. In 1918, while living in Geneva, he created his first ‘schadographs’, such as Untitled (Fish; 1918; New York, MOMA), contact prints of collages and objects on photosensitive paper. Like Man Ray’s rayographs and Moholy-Nagy’s photograms, these cameraless photographs reproduced the negative image of the textures placed on them, creating a new form of representation....

Article

M. Sue Kendall

(b Kovno, Lithuania, Sept 12, 1898; d New York, March 14, 1969).

American painter, photographer and lithographer of Lithuanian birth. He was born into a family of Jewish craftsmen who emigrated in 1906, settling in New York. From 1913 to 1917 Shahn served as an apprentice in Hessenberg’s Lithography Shop in Manhattan, and in the evenings he attended high school in Brooklyn. In 1916 he enrolled in a life-drawing class at the Art Students League. After studying biology, first at New York University (1919) and then at City College, New York (1919–22), he entered the National Academy of Design to pursue a career as an artist (1923).

After marrying in 1922, Shahn travelled with his wife to North Africa, Spain, Italy and France (1924–5; 1927–9), where he studied both the art of the past and the works of Matisse, Dufy, Rouault, Picasso and Klee. On his return from Europe in 1925 they moved to Brooklyn Heights. There he met Walker Evans, with whom he began to share a studio. Also in ...

Article

James G. Todd jr

Term used to refer to the work of painters, printmakers, photographers and film makers who draw attention to the everyday conditions of the working classes and the poor, and who are critical of the social structures that maintain these conditions. In general it should not be confused with Socialist Realism, the official art form of the USSR, which was institutionalized by Joseph Stalin in 1934, and later by allied Communist parties worldwide. Social realism, in contrast, represents a democratic tradition of independent socially motivated artists, usually of left-wing or liberal persuasion. Their preoccupation with the conditions of the lower classes was a result of the democratic movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, so social realism in its fullest sense should be seen as an international phenomenon, despite the term’s frequent association with American painting. While the artistic style of social realism varies from nation to nation, it almost always utilizes a form of descriptive or critical realism (e.g. the work in 19th-century Russia of the ...

Article

(b London, April 19, 1910; d Malden, Essex, March 11, 2005).

English photographer, painter and textile designer. He studied architecture at the Albert-Ludwigs Universität, Freiburg, in Germany (1927–8) and at the Architectural Association School in London (1929–34). During his time in Germany he absorbed the influence of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement and of photographic developments in illustrated journals such as the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung. Though largely self-taught, he did learn photographic techniques from his brother Michael Spender, an employee of the Leitz camera factory. Among other jobs he worked as a commercial and portrait photographer (1934–9), and as a staff photographer for the Daily Mirror (1936–8) and for Picture Post (1946–9). From its foundation in 1937 until 1939 he was the official photographer for the Mass Observation project, which brought together painters, poets, social scientists and film makers to record the details of everyday British life. During the project Spender worked with a concealed camera so that the scenes he captured were entirely natural, as in ...