Pure Photography: Pictorial and Modern Photographs from the Syracuse University Art Collection

Featuring thirty images from leading photographers, this exhibition explores the evolution of photography as an art form.  The history of photographic arts has been influenced by countless individuals, thematic styles, and chemical processes.  Initially, photography was used largely to document what surrounded or intrigued the public eye. As more individuals began using cameras, the idea grew that photography could be a form of art in addition to a form of documentation. This captured the attention of many artists, most notably Alfred Stieglitz, who formed the Photo Secession and helped establish Pictorialism.

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.

Number of objects: 30

Installation Space: 175 linear feet
Brochure Available