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Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art

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Beach Museum of Art
Kansas State University
14th St & Anderson Ave
Manhattan, KS 66506



Pure Photography: Pictorial and Modern Photographs

August 27 – November 24, 2013

 The idea that photography could express emotions and abstract ideas gained momentum in the 1880s, countering the broadly accepted notion that photographs merely reproduce accurate representations of their subjects. With a painterly, romantic aesthetic, the pictorial movement emerged as a way for photographers to create imaginative works of art. Soft-focus lenses and intensive printing processes allowed artists to mimic brushstrokes, eliminate sharpness, and create rich tones.

Although pictorialism lingered into the 1930s, the concept of photography as art continued to evolve. As society and technology changed, so did the photographic medium. A new style, termed pure or straight photography, emphasized recreating a scene as truthfully as possible, while also capturing tonal variations or abstract forms. Ideas and aesthetics from modern painting and sculpture influenced photography, leading to collage-like compositions and shifting spatial relations. Modern photographers focused on commonly overlooked details of everyday life, such as the shadow on a door jamb or the view of a city skyline. Developments in photomechanical reproduction made the camera a powerful tool for disseminating ideas to a mass audience, and gave artists the opportunity for creative expression while supporting themselves financially by photographing celebrities, everyday scenes, or historical events for magazines and newspapers.

The photographs in this exhibition span the first half of the 20th century, demonstrating a wide swath of artistic styles which reflect the changing ideas, attitudes and technological tools of artists behind the lens and in the darkroom.

This exhibition is organized by the Syracuse University Art Galleries, New York.

Related programs

Gallery Walk
October 16, 2013 5:30 p.m., Vanier Gallery, Beach Museum of Art
Join curator Theresa Bembnister, K-State professors Shreepad Joglekar, Stephen Wolgast, and K-State professor emeritus Michaeline Chance-Reay for an informal exploration of the exhibition “Pure Photography: Pictorial and Modern Photographs.”   


Photo Credit: Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Retrato de lo eterno [Portrait of the Eternal], 1935 (detail). Courtesy of Syracuse University Art Collection.