Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949




Max Burchartz, “Lotte (Eye)” (1928), gelatin silver print, 11 7/8 x 15 3/4 in (30.2 x 40 cm), the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Thomas Walther Collection, acquired through the generosity of Peter Norton (© 2014 Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn) (all photos courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art)

MOMA’s interactive website of The Thomas Walther Collection of b/w photos includes a User’s guide to engaging with the gallery of 341 images, essays, and the comparison charts, which link the images to the period and related exhibitions/artists in which they were created.


Object:Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949 revises the usual discussions of photography; moving away from the typical emphasis on the subject and the image, it focuses instead on the photographic object—the singular print, created by a certain individual at a particular time, with specific materials and techniques, and present today in its unique physicality. The photographs in the Thomas Walther Collection—documents of a uniquely fertile period in modern art—are presented in the fullness of multivalent research, including data on their material composition and physical attributes, together with complete provenance and citations of related exhibitions and publications, establishing a new standard of detailed and technical accounting.

The 100+ plates in the book, beautifully printed to scale in a newly developed color process, are sequenced into five richly allusive passages through the collection and through history—the places, preoccupations, and premonitions of the tumultuous period in which they were created.


On the hyperallergic site, Julia Friedman tells us that Object: Photo is clearly meant as “a research archive as much as an interactive tool for interested browsers. I gravitated towards a Connecting Artists section, which features a circle of dots, each representing an exhibition, photo industry hub, cultural hub, publication, or school. Select any dot and related artists appear as dots in the center of the circle; choose any artist and lines link back to affiliated categories. I started searching for artists that had studied at the Man Ray Studio and were associated with New York. Lee Miller, Man Ray, and Berenice Abbott fit the criteria.” 


André Kertész, “Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe” (1926), gelatin silver print, 3 1/8 x 3 11/16 in (7.9 x 9.3 cm), the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund (© 2014 Estate of André Kertész)

Posted in Cooperative Arts, History of Photography, Photography Archives, Photography Exhibits.

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