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Straight Photography Collage

Straight Photography

Started: 1910

Straight Photography Timeline

Quotes

"I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself."
Diane Arbus
"Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees."
Paul Strand
"The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself..."
Edward Weston
"The art that is made in Mexico is not some sort of pre-Hispanic art, it is an art of the present."
Manuel Álvarez Bravo
"It's not always easy to stand aside and be unable to do anything except record the sufferings around one."
Robert Capa
"What the human eye observes casually and incuriously, the eye of the camera eye (the lens) notes with relentless fidelity."
Berenice Abbott
"The photogram, or camera-less record of forms produced by light, which embodies the unique nature of the photographic process, is the real key to photography."
László Moholy-Nagy
"I compelled myself here to reveal the hidden figure which lay in each mental picture... . The disclosed parts of the photograph reorganized themselves into new combinations... . I cut their flesh as one carves a block to break loose the figure which it conceals... . Enshrined in graphism this debris gives to our obsession, to our dreams the flash of the instant, the breath of reality."
Henri Cartier-Bresson

KEY ARTISTS

Paul StrandPaul Strand
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Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
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Ansel AdamsAnsel Adams
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László Moholy-NagyLászló Moholy-Nagy
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Manuel Alvarez BravoManuel Alvarez Bravo
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Berenice AbbottBerenice Abbott
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More Top Artists

"To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things."

Walker Evans Signature

Synopsis

Straight photography emphasizes and engages with the camera's own technical capability to produce images sharp in focus and rich in detail. The term generally refers to photographs that are not manipulated, either in the taking of the image or by darkroom or digital processes, but sharply depict the scene or subject as the camera sees it. Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz pioneered Straight photography in New York while the Hungarian-born László Moholy Nagy exploited pure photography to maximize the graphic structure of the camera-image. These straight or pure approaches to photography continue to define contemporary photographs, while being the foundation for many related movements, such as Documentary, Street photography, Photojournalism, and even later Abstract photography.

Key Ideas

Straight photography for the first time, since the invention of photography, respects the medium's own technical visual language. The camera's distinctive vocabulary includes form, sharp focus, rich detail, high contrast, and rich tonalities. Straight photography is also synonymous with pure photography, since both terms describe the camera's ability to faithfully reproduce an image of reality.
Straight photographers visualized the image before taking the photo. Edward Weston defined this term in 1921 and stated: "Get your lighting and exposure correct at the start and both the developing and printing can be practically automatic." Ansel Adams could not agree more when he asserted "the photographer visualizes his conception of the subject as presented in the final print. He achieves the expression of his visualization through his technique - aesthetic, intellectual, and mechanical." This visualization of the image was complemented by format cameras - a camera that used large film sizes either 4x5 in. or 8x10 in. - that enabled the photographer to preview the scene on the ground glass.
László Moholy-Nagy's notion of New Vision (Neues Sehen) of photography has close ties to the ideas of the Bauhaus school. His technique looked at the world through the camera lens, using it both as a framing device for documenting and as a means of experimentation. Moholy-Nagy, intent on creating a graphic structure in the image, championed unconventional viewpoints and playful printing techniques to develop a fresh rapport with the visible, industrial world.
Straight photography is a process- and time-based approach. It represents immediacy, the passing of time as in history, or the freezing of time as in a snapshot. In a photograph, time is described by the movements of the subject. As Henri Cartier-Bresson stated "we work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment on the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment in which the elements in motion are in balance." This notion of the "decisive moment" defined much of the Straight photography of the mid-20th century.

Beginnings

Straight Photography Image

Precursors: The Early Practitioners of Photography

From the time of the camera's invention in 1839, it was used as a tool to document everyday objects, daily scenes, nature, and cultural artifacts. The basis for photography as it is practiced today stems from Henry Fox Talbot's invention of the calotype: a paper negative produced by exposing a sheet of paper coated with silver chloride to light. Talbot, a British scientist, mathematician, author, and inventor of photography, shortened exposure times and allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative. He would have us believe that the photograph was created by the action of light, by nature herself, on sensitive paper, and depicted by optical and chemical means alone. His French counterpart Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre, a painter, printmaker, and inventor of the Daguerreotype, shared Talbot's belief that photography "gives nature the ability to reproduce itself .. not with their colors but instead with a very fine gradation of tones."

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Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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