The historical background to Film and Foto
- 1920s Pictoralism – photography lost its relevance as a form of the artistic enquiry
- In the USA straight photography was in the ascendancy
- In Europe photography’s development took a different route – New Realists
The difference between straight photography and the New Realists is one of emphasis with the latter aiming to reveal often small insignificant details or features
Both approaches were aimed at revealing realism
- The key to new realism is to provide humankind with the type of reality that did not correspond with direct observation during the 1920s
- There were a range of exhibitions the placed photography within the artistic context for example Photography, Painting, Architecture exhibition 1928
- The exhibition was important in terms of defining art
New Realists created photographic works that were shown alongside photographs originally created for industrial technological and scientific purposes. So for example scientific photographs aerial photographs that are montages advertising images were exhibited within the artistic context
Film and Foto
The exhibition opened in Stuttgart in May 1929 it was christened as the first major international exhibition to explore the field of photography as a whole without reference to any hierarchies or use or function.
So one can see that Film and Foto positioned photography as an objective medium that stood on the cusp between art and science where photos could be read beyond the purpose for which they were created. For example, zoological astronomical botanical aerial medical forensic industrial journalistic photos were exhibited.
The catalogue consisted of a small booklet containing seven brief texts, a list of exhibited work and 21 illustrations.
Pictorialism had had its day. The success of Film and Foto was enormous and immediate: 10,000 people visited between May and June the exhibition toured many cities and concluded its travels in 1931.
The New Realist movement is one of the most interesting to me. It’s not just the interesting imagery but the context of European art in the early part of the century – the Russian revolution, WW1 and Germany instability. You can see this reflected in the art of the period – the chaos of Dada and the order the Bauhaus: Wonderful. It still gives inspiration today and I used the approach in my photography BA to produce these images of stuff related to paralysis.
It’s interesting looking at these images and comparing and contrasting this approach with those used for Paralysis Unseen. The emphasis in this set seems to me to be documentary in that while the images have a strong form they offer almost nothing to the viewer of how I feel. Compare that to the book images: here the range is much wider but many hopefully do offer the viewer a sense of my emotional response to my world. For example, this image below hopefully works as a way of communicating a sense of how all aspects of my life are dominated by my impairment. But I hope it works as a picture as well.
Mauro, A (ed.) Photo Show: Landmark exhibitions that defined the history of photography, published by Thames and Hudson, 2014