Modernist Photography from the Bluff Collection
The first decades of the twentieth century were a period of tremendous photographic experimentation. As painters freed themselves from traditional modes of representation, societal shifts and the growing influence of technology on daily life encouraged photographers to investigate and amplify the medium’s unique traits in new ways. In Europe, artistic movements like Surrealism, coupled with the machine-driven devastation of World War I, fueled a rapid change in photographic style. Established Pictorialist aesthetics—softly focused compositions and serene subjects removed from the challenges of everyday life—gave way to what Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy called the neue Optik (new vision): sharp focus, unusual viewpoints, and abstracted form. It quickly influenced photographic practice throughout the world. The Bluff Collection, featuring photographs by Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston, demonstrates the bold qualities of modernist photography during this energized period of artistic expression.
Subject/Object is organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Julia Dolan, Ph.D., The Minor White Curator of Photography.