In the 1930s, a small group of California photographers challenged the painterly, soft-focus Pictorialist style of the day. They argued that photography could only advance as an art if its practitioners exploited characteristics inherent to the camera’s mechanical nature. This small association of innovators created Group f/64, named after the camera aperture which produces great depth of field and sharp focus. The exhibition revisits this debate and includes images by photographers in Group f/64 such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Sonya Noskowiak, and Willard Van Dyke, as well as images by such Pictorialists such as Anne Brigman, William Dassonville, Johan Hagemeyer, William Mortensen, and Karl Struss. With 90 works by 16 artists, Debating Modern Photography offers a feast for the eyes while illustrating both sides of a high-stakes debate. Outstanding examples of the clean edges and bold forms of Group f/64 stand in sharp contrast to the romantic, hand-crafted Pictorialist work that includes elegant portraits, tonalist landscapes, and allegorical studies.
The exhibit is open (Mon-Fri 9-7) through Dec 5.
Learn more at Maine’s Portland Museum of Art.