Pure Photography: Pictorial and Modern Photographs

from the Syracuse University Art Collection

May 2 - August 1, 2014
Gallery I, II & III
FREE & Open to the Public
Opening Reception: Friday, May 2, 2014 | 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Pictorial Photography emerged from the shadows of a “point and shoot” craft into a style where artists strived to create painterly, romantic images.  These soft and atmospheric images could be easily mistaken for a monochromatic painting, etching, or drawing. 

As the processes associated with the medium evolved so did the concept of photography as an art form. The artists who once embraced the illusion of manipulated photographs, such as Paul Strand, began to favor more straight forward compositions. This new style, termed Pure or Straight, emphasized recreating a scene as truthfully as possible without any manipulation. 

There was no longer the need for direct manipulation in photography in order to justify it as art. The pure beauty of a photograph began to shine through as Modern photographers learned how to capture images that had always surrounded us, yet were seldom seen. The modern ideal was to make these unique perspectives seen and in doing so create an aesthetically pleasing, pure photograph. 

The photographers included in this exhibition have extensive histories that span thematic periods and artistic styles. Taking their cues from Master Photographers like Edward Steichen, artists such as Berenice Abbott and Manuel Alvarez Bravo built on that foundation in order to explore the very art of photography. Utilizing their cameras, they created a new, modern vision for photography with a revised understanding of the camera and its capabilities. No longer tied to a pictorial past, these artists, and others, gave photography its own unique definition as an art form based solely on its ability to capture and create striking images. As a result, they too are considered Master Photographers.

Courtesy of the Syracuse University Art Collection

Alfred Steiglitz
The Steerage, 1907
photogravure on laid paper

Edward Jean Steichen
Greta Garbo, Hollywood, 1928
from the portfolio Steichen: Twenty Five Photographs 
printed posthumously by George A. Tice, 1982
gelatin silver print

Lewis Wickes Hine
Mechanic (skilled) in a modern 
locomotive plant
, c1930
gelatin silver print