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. Complementing and contextualizing the material presented on the Object:Photo website, the book’s major essays consider such topics as the birth and evolution of the photographic avant-garde in Berlin and at the Bauhaus, and the history of its reception and appreciation in Germany, France, and the United States; the circulation of the pictures and the discourse they engaged through publications; the physical qualities of the Walther Collection pictures as evidence of the development of photographic materials during this period; and the importance of reference collections and shared research protocols for the furtherance of such studies. Together with new research and thematic studies of the exhibition Film und Foto (or Fifo) of 1929; contemporary film; press photography; and Weimar portraiture, as well as object-based case studies of Karl Blossfeldt, El Lissitzky, and Alfred Stieglitz and his circle, the diverse essays demonstrate new approaches that will refresh the dialogue on this formative era in photography.
Produced by the Department of Publications, The Museum of Modern Art, New York Edited by Kyle Bentley, Jason Best, David Frankel, Emily Hall, Libby Hruska, Holly La Due, and Rebecca Roberts Designed by Daphne Geismar Production by Marc Sapir