The History of a Photograph’s Aesthetic Value – Proposal

Up to the early 1900’s, aesthetics weren’t taken into much consideration in photography. The technology was still developing, so what was most important was not the artistic, but the technological value. However, as photography’s artistic value started to be recognized, more photographs were taken, and a new style of photography emerged: Pictorialism.

Pictorialism can be defined by soft, romantic pictures. This movement was very concerned with aesthetics and the beauty of the subject. This style of photography was greatly inspired by paintings, especially miniature portraits of people, eventually replacing them completely. The photograph didn’t necessarily have to look realistic, it just had to look beautiful.

Pictorialism eventually started fading out in the 1920’s and let place to Modernism. Contrary to Pictorialism, Modernism had a sharper focus, and focused on more formal qualities. This style of photography came in vogue greatly due to the modernist philosophical movement, as we can see both the philosophical movement and the photography style reject past trends and values. Modernism contrasts so much with Pictorialism because it is a reaction to it. Sadakichi Hartmann’s  “Plea for a Straight Photography”, published in 1904, made Modernism gain popularity over it’s predecessor.

After Modernism came Post-Modernism, popular in the 1960’s. Like Modernism, Post-Modernism accompanied a philosophical movement. Post Modernist philosophy stated that there should be criticism and skepticism towards grand narratives, ideologies, etc. Photography was actually the ideal medium for post-modernist artists because it didn’t necessitate a great understanding of philosophy and artistic theories. They believed anyone could be a photograph, which is why post-modernism doesn’t have one precise look. The lines between high class and popular culture began to blur, making photography one of the most accessible art forms.



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