Director's Foreword

This website showcases one of the most important acquisitions in the history of The Museum of Modern Art, a collection of rare photographs made between the two world wars. The significance of the Thomas Walther Collection lies not only in the exceptional quality of the photographs but also in their importance; the collection includes outstanding examples of European avant-garde photography of the 1920s and ’30s, work synonymous with artistic freedom—freedom from the conventions of painting and laborious stand-camera practice, freedom to flip, invert, and recombine images, freedom to concoct new processing and printing techniques and to photograph anything from any point of view. The resulting expansion of the expressive potential of photography was so vast that the aggregate of these explorations was termed the New Vision, and was paralleled by as great an expansion of the medium’s reach: through illustrated magazines and newspapers, newsreels and cinema, and several pivotal books, these photographs became ubiquitous vehicles of culture, of information and entertainment, and, indeed, of modernity itself. We today are the direct inheritors of that moment and accomplishment.

These photographs joined the Museum’s collection in 2001 by the proposal of former Chief Curator of Photography Peter Galassi, who saw that certain gaps in the Museum’s otherwise superb collection matched areas of strength in the collection of Thomas Walther, a young German photographer who had moved to New York in 1977 and later became a member of the Museum’s Committee on Photography. The collection is notable in its focus on the early modern period and on early vintage prints of avant-garde photographs, especially those made in Germany, the United States, France, and Russia. The Museum is very grateful to Messrs. Walther and Galassi for bringing this remarkable collection into the institution.

In 2010 The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the Museum a handsome grant to encourage deep scholarly study of the Walther Collection and to support publication of the results. Taking its place in the Mellon Foundation’s generous program of support for the Museum over the years, the grant produced a four-year research project designed to advance both art-historical and scientific knowledge by connecting two branches of inquiry often pursued separately. Led by the Museum’s departments of Photography and Conservation, the project elicited collaborations among scholars, curators, conservators, and scientists who investigated all of the factors involved in the making, appearance, condition, and history of each of the 341 photographs in the collection. The broadening of specializations and the cross-fertilization between fields—the reorientation of photo historians to photographs as physical objects, and of photo conservators to the place of those objects in art history—heightened appreciation of the singularity of each object and of its exquisite position within the history of its moment.

To disseminate the project’s results and to foster continuing collaborations with colleagues near and far are the driving concerns of this extensively detailed, interactive digital research platform. This website—Object:Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art—is unprecedented in its functionality, providing virtual access to the objects in exceptional depth, along with wide-ranging scholarship on the photographs’ historical context and significance. It is complemented by a printed book, also titled Object:Photo, which contains additional extended essays on the material economy of the photographs and their histories of collection and publication.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been crucial in making possible this ambitious project. For its original incentive, continuing critical guidance, and most generous support, the Foundation has our deepest gratitude. On behalf of the Museum, its Trustees, and photography’s public, I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of all those involved in this project, especially Jim Coddington, Chief Conservator; Maria Morris Hambourg, Senior Curator; Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator; and Lee Ann Daffner, Andrew W. Mellon Conservator of Photographs. Their work has been exemplary and has resulted in a great deal of new information and important insights. I also acknowledge the additional major support of the Museum’s Research and Scholarly Publications Endowment established through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Edward John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Challenge Grant Program, and additional funding from The John Szarkowski Publications Fund.

—Glenn D. Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art

The Collection

In the 1920s and ’30s photography underwent a period of exploration, experimentation, technical innovation, and graphic discovery so dramatic that it generated repeated claims that the true age of discovery was not when photography was invented but when it came of age, in this era, as a dynamic, infinitely flexible, and easily transmissible medium. The Thomas Walther Collection concentrates on that second moment of growth. The Walther Collection’s 341 photographs by almost 150 artists, most of them European, together convey a period of collective innovation that is now celebrated as one of the major episodes of modern art.

The Project

Our research is based on the premise that photographs of this period were not born as disembodied images; they are physical things—discrete objects made by certain individuals at particular moments using specific techniques and materials. Shaped by its origin and creation, the photographic print harbors clues to its maker and making, to the causes it may have served, and to the treatment it has received, and these bits of information, gathered through close examination of the print, offer fresh perspectives on the history of the era. “Object:Photo”—the title of this study—reflects this approach.

In 2010, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the Museum a grant to encourage deep scholarly study of the Walther Collection and to support publication of the results. Led by the Museum’s Departments of Photography and Conservation, the project elicited productive collaborations among scholars, curators, conservators, and scientists, who investigated all of the factors involved in the making, appearance, condition, and history of each of the 341 photographs in the collection. The broadening of narrow specializations and the cross-fertilization between fields heightened appreciation of the singularity of each object and of its position within the history of its moment. Creating new standards for the consideration of photographs as original objects and of photography as an art form of unusually rich historical dimensions, the project affords both experts and those less familiar with its history new avenues for the appreciation of the medium. The results of the project are presented in multiple parts: on this website, in a hard-bound paper catalogue of the entire Thomas Walther Collection (also titled Object:Photo), and through an interdisciplinary symposium focusing on the ways in which the digital age is changing our engagement with historic photographs.

Historical Context

The Walther Collection is particularly suited to such a study because its photographs are so various in technique, geography, genre, and materials as to make it a mine of diverse data. The revolutions in technology that made the photography of this period so flexible and responsive to the impulse of the operator threw open the field to all comers. The introduction of the handheld Leica
 in 1925 (a small camera using strips of 35mm motion-picture film), of enlargers to make positive prints from the Leica’s little negatives, and of easy-to-use photographic papers—each of these was respectively a watershed event. Immediately sensing the potential of these tools, artists began to explore the medium; without any specialized training, painters such as László Moholy-Nagy and Aleksandr Rodchenko could become photographers and teachers almost overnight. Excitedly and with an open sense of possibility, they freely experimented in the darkroom and in the studio, producing negative prints, collages and photomontages, photograms, solarizations, and combinations of these. Legions of serious amateurs also began to photograph, and manufacturers produced more types of cameras with different dimensions and capacities: besides the Leica, there was the Ermanox, which could function in low light, motion-picture cameras that could follow and stop action, and many varieties of medium- and larger-format cameras that could be adapted for easy transport. The industry responded to the expanding range of users and equipment with a bonanza of photographic papers in an assortment of textures, colors, and sizes. Multiple purposes also generated many kinds of prints: best for reproduction in books or newspapers were slick, ferrotyped glossies, unmounted and small enough to mail, while photographs for exhibition were generally larger and mounted to stiff boards. Made by practitioners ranging from amateurs to professional portraitists, journalists, illustrators, designers, critics, and artists of all stripes, the pictures in the Walther Collection are a true representation of the kaleidoscopic multiplicity of photography in this period of diversification.

Conservation Science

The conservation objectives were manifold: to determine the manner of the photographs’ construction—the material constituents of both the image and its paper— and to test a new methodology, previously applied only to smaller sets of pictures. To this end the conservation team gathered literature, magazines, advertisements, and broadsides of the period—tracking the appearance and history of once familiar products and techniques, so many now given up to history—and launched into a suite of technical analyses for each photograph in the collection. Chris McGlinchey, the Museum’s Sally and Michael Gordon Conservation Scientist, who had pioneered the use of handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) devices on photographs in 2001, set to work, and Ana Martins, Associate Conservation Scientist, statistically evaluated the immense data sets that the research had produced. Surface texture, a special line of investigation for Paul Messier, independent conservator, and Jim Coddington, the Museum’s Chief Conservator, drew on a body of research in imaging systems built up by, among others, the Cultural Heritage Imaging group in San Francisco, using techniques of polynomial mapping and reflectance transformation imaging. Messier’s modifications of these methods enabled the study, documentation, and sharing of the surfaces of photographs by the same artists in other museum collections. The success of documenting photographs from different collections with these kinds of reproducible results not only raised the bar for standards of collaboration but made possible future comparisons that adhere to these published methods and procedures. MoMA was thus positioned not only to synthesize and mine the largest body of raw data on a group of photographs ever gathered, but to extend that effort beyond its own walls.

Visiting Scholars

To engage art historians in these conservation studies and elicit their ideas on what questions might be addressed by further conservation research, the project team invited outside scholars to study the photographs and share their expertise. Fields of photographic history that had not been principal subjects of research in the United States had the most to gain: thus many scholars and experts on Hungarian, Polish, German, and Russian photography came to study the prints with the curators and conservators in MoMA’s conservation studio. The visiting scholars wrote reports on the photographs as both physical objects and subjects of art-historical research, the two fields intersecting and at times melding. Scholars accustomed to archives and libraries discovered that something as unremarkable as the hooks on the back of a mount could reveal that a print had been part of a major traveling exhibition, or that examining a print under a microscope in the conservation lab could disclose, in the reflection in an eye, a portrait of the photographer and his or her camera, confirming both the authorship and the specifics of the technique.


The website features a suite of four powerful interactive visualization models that can be filtered to reveal intersections and relations among the photographs, the artists, and the materials and techniques they used in ever-changing geographic locations and across sliding spans of years, forming conceptual constellations of people, places, objects, events, and materials that could not be conveyed in the linear format of a printed publication. Built to visually express the deep set of individual data points gathered for each picture or artist in the collection, these visualizations showcase the geographic and material scope of the collection as well as the intertwined networks that fostered the creative innovation of photography in this era. Most of all, however, they present each user with the opportunity to pursue his or her own questions, discovering historical and material relationships that may open further paths of inquiry and thus foster the next generation of scholarship on modern photography.


Central to this project and this website are the voices of the scholars and conservators who conducted focused studies of the Walther Collection photographs. Leading figures in the field, they represent the geographic diversity of the collection as well as the desire to bring together many generations of practitioner—from the original founders of museum photography departments, to those who have broadened the canon to emphasize the significance of central and eastern European figures, to those who will write the next chapters in the history of modern photography. An anthology of twenty-nine studies is published here, revealing a diversity of approaches that complement the collection and consider it in various contexts. Edward Weston’s German connections, the commercial legacy of the Clarence H. White School, the influence of German Expressionist film, Jaromír Funke’s early abstraction, the distinct engagements of amateur photographic circles and avant-garde artists in Hungary and Poland, and the cultural context of a photo-mural by El Lissitzky are just a few of the subjects treated in the essays of the scholars and conservators.

Topics: Photographs, Artists, Meeting Points, Materials

The Topics section of this website houses a page dedicated to each photograph and artist represented in the collection as well as a selection of fifty-one exhibitions, publications, cities, schools, and studios that were vital connection points among artists in this era. In addition, the analytical techniques used in the project are explained in a section that focuses on the project’s conservation research. Photograph pages identify and picture the objects, giving title, negative and print dates, medium, dimensions, and provenance, among other information. They take the reader through the physical character of the print, beginning with the front (the picture and related identifying information), then the back (with its marks and inscriptions, mounting information, and provenance), followed by the surface (under raking light and magnified) and its interior chemical and material makeup. The last section of the photograph page places the object in its historical context, listing exhibitions and publications of the era in which it is known to have been represented, related photographs and videos, and, in select cases, a short essay co-authored by a conservator and a curator. Artist pages feature a detailed chronology of the artist’s life and work (including his or her relationships with other artists and events represented in the collection), links to all the Walther Collection photographs by the artist, and a list of historical events and organizations to which the artist was connected. This list is linked to the Meeting Points pages, which feature cities, exhibitions, publications, schools, and studios selected to showcase either a moment of greatest intersection in the collection or its broadest reach. Each of these connection points opens a doorway, shedding light on the multiple intersections among artists, artworks, and the events of an unprecedentedly fertile era. Additionally, the Materials section offers a technical glossary and an account of the methods of material analysis used in the project. This information allows other institutions to follow the same protocols for characterization, making the data on this website a principal contribution to an expanding set of shared research on photographic materials. Each chapter of this publication—the visualizations, the essays, and the topics pages—offers a different approach for reading, exploring, and viewing this exceptional collection of photographs.

—Maria Morris Hambourg, Senior Curator; Lee Ann Daffner, Andrew W. Mellon Conservator of Photographs; and Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator


To study the exceptional photographs acquired by The Museum of Modern Art from Thomas Walther in 2001, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and MoMA partnered to support a cross-institutional, international, and interdisciplinary research project. This website is one of three outcomes of that project; the others are a book, published in 2014 (see “The Book” in the menu bar for more information), and a symposium, Reconsidering the Object: Researching Interwar Photography, held at the Museum on December 12, 2014. The project has made demands on many people to whom we are profoundly grateful. We have worked directly with those listed below but know that they represent the efforts of many others whose support has likewise been instrumental.

Our foremost debt is to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, whose vision and support empowers this project.

The Project Team

In MoMA’s Department of Conservation the core team was led by Lee Ann Daffner, Andrew W. Mellon Conservator of Photographs. The core team in the Department of Photography was led by Associate Curator Mitra Abbaspour. In 2013–14 they were joined by Maria Morris Hambourg, Senior Curator, Department of Photography.

In the Department of Conservation, Jim Coddington, Agnes Gund Chief Conservator, helped to envision the program and was a close advisor. His engagement with digital visualization pointed the way toward the publications’ visual presentations of scientific data. Hanako Murata, Assistant Conservator of Photographs, guided the material analysis of the prints at every stage. Associate Research Scientist Ana Martins oversaw X-ray fluorescence analysis and principal component analysis. Chris McGlinchey, Sally and Michael Gordon Conservation Scientist, answered countless questions about the materials of photography, and visiting scholar Paul Messier advised on many subjects and led the study of surface-characterization protocols.

In the Department of Photography, Quentin Bajac, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, offered essential support. Research Assistant Audrey Sands performed exacting art-historical research. Cataloguer and Assistant Digital Content Strategist Kelly Cannon created a database structure to present research on every photograph, artist, and subject. Curator Sarah Meister assisted with the acquisition of the collection and was central to its initial cataloguing and to the early projection of the Walther project’s goals. Editorial Assistant Ksenia Nouril went to great lengths to research and assemble the many parts of each essay and each photograph page, following the groundwork of Editorial Assistant Miyuki Hinton; both made myriad details coalesce, while image-rights researchers Marina Chao and Elisa Gallagher ensured that our scholarship could be illustrated. Many of the team’s researches began with files assembled by Simon Bieling, the Museum’s Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Fellow for 2004–5.

At different points in the project’s span—it ran from 2010 to 2014—the team received invaluable assistance from diligent interns: Olympia Arco, Clara Bouverese, María Fernanda Domínguez Loñdono, Victoria Gao, Meghan Jordan, Anna Linehan, James Newhouse, Ariel Pate, Jason Sondock, Catherine Troiano, Marc Verhmuelen, Mechella Yezernitskaya, and Sara Yee.


Visiting scholars were a crucial cadre, not only contributing expertise and research but enlarging our compass by linking us to their home institutions’ resources. We warmly thank them: Baki Péter, Director, Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum, Kecskemét; Joshua Chuang, then Richard Benson Associate Curator of Photography and Digital Media of Yale University Art Gallery (now Chief Curator at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson); Antonín Dufek, Chief Curator of Photography emeritus, Moravská Galerie, Brno; Ute Eskildsen, Deputy Director and Head of Photography emeritus, Museum Folkwang, Essen; Monika Faber, Director, Photoinstitut Bonartes, Munich; Michel Frizot, professor emeritus, l’École du Louvre, Paris, and Research Director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris; Maria Gough, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Professor of Modern Art, Harvard University; Inka Graeve-Ingelmann, Director, Collection of Photography and New Media, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA; Jason Hill, then Terra Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, École Normale Supérieure, Paris (now Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, New-York Historical Society); Nadav Hochman, doctoral candidate, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh; Christina Lodder, professor emeritus, St. Andrews University; Olivier Lugon, Professor, Section d’histoire et esthétique du cinéma and Centre des sciences historiques et de la culture, University of Lausanne; Lev Manovich, Director, Software Studies Initiative, The Graduate Center, City University of New York; Constance McCabe, Senior Conservator of Photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Paul Messier, Paul Messier LLC; Stephanie O’Rourke, Museum Research Consortium Fellow, MoMA, and doctoral candidate, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University; Klaus Pollmeier, Professor of Photography, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Dessau; Nancy Reinhold, independent conservator; Kim Sichel, Professor, Boston University; Pepper Stetler, Assistant Professor of Art History, Oxford University, Ohio; Maciej Szymanowicz, Director, Pf Gallery, Poznań; Margarita Tupitsyn, independent scholar; Beth Gates Warren, independent scholar; Matthew Witkovsky, Chair of the Department of Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago; Bonnie Yochelson, independent scholar; and Andrés Zervigón, Associate Professor of the History of Photography, Rutgers University.

Institutional Collaborators

Many institutions hosted team members during research trips. For their generous hospitality we thank: at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena: Eva Forgacs; at The Art Institute of Chicago: Amy Diehl and Matt Witkovsky; at Axel Springer Syndication GmbH, Ullstein Bild, Berlin: Katrin Bomhoff; at the Berlinische Galerie: Tanja Keppler; at The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Leslie Calmes, Jennifer Jae Gutierrez, and Rebecca Senf; at the Centre Pompidou, Paris: Damarice Amao, Clément Chéroux, and Julie Jones; at the Deutsche Fotothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden: Jens Bove, Siegfried Bregulla, Petra Dolle, and Bettina Erlenkamp; at the Getty Museum and Research Institute, Los Angeles: Sarah Freeman, Marc Harnly, Virginia Heckert, Karen Hellman, and Amanda Maddox; at the International Center for Photography, New York: Christopher George and Claartje van Dijk; at the International Museum of Photography and Film, George Eastman House, Rochester: Jamie Allen, Kathy Connor, Todd Gustavson, Jessica McDonald (now of the Harry Ransom Center, Austin), Taina Meller, Joe R. Struble, and Rachel Stuhlman; at the Kunstbibliothek and Sammlung Fotografie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Ludger Derenthal and Christine Kühn; at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Eve Schillo; at the Ludwig Museum, Cologne: Miriam Halwani; at the Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum, Kecskemét: Baki Péter and Tóth Balázs Zoltán; at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Elisabeth (Lisa) Barro, Malcolm Daniel (now of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), Mia Fineman, Meredith Friedman, Nora W. Kennedy, Jeff Rosenheim, Katherine C. Sanderson, and Lucy von Brachel; at the Moravská Galerie, Brno: Antonín Dufek; at the Museum of the City of New York: Sean Corcoran; at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Toshiaki Koseki, Yasufumi Nakamori, Tina Tan, Anne Wilkes Tucker, and Del Zogg; at the Museum Folkwang, Essen: Florian Ebner, Ute Eskildsen, and Petra Steinhardt; at the Muzeum umění Olomouc: Štěpánka Bieleszová and Gina Renotière; at the New Orleans Museum of Art: Russell Lord; at the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne: Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, Patricia Edgar, and Tanja Löhr-Michels; at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich: Simone Förster and Inka Graeve Ingelmann; at the Universitätsarchiv, Universität der Künste Berlin: Antje Kalcher and Dietmar Schenk; then at the University of Chicago, Sarah Miller; and at the Vintage Galéria, Budapest: Attila Pőcze.

Texture Mapping

In the texture mapping of photographic materials we were assisted by a team of scientists with superior expertise. At Cornell University: Geoffrey S. M. Hedrick, Senior Professor of Engineering, and C. Richard Johnson, Jr.; at the University of Wisconsin, Madison: William A. Sethares; at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts: Andrew G. Klein; and at the Universiteit van Tilburg: Nanne van Noord.

Research Collections

For sharing their research collections of photographic materials we are grateful to: Flanders House, New York; Deutsche Fotothek, Die Sächsische Landesbibliothek—Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (slub), Dresden; Laurent Roosens, Lieven Gevaertarchif Historisch Archief Agfa-Gevaert N.V., Mortsel, Belgium; and Alison Rossiter, artist.

Digital Humanities

For invaluable input on the presentation of the collection online, we thank: Nicole Coleman and The Republic of Letters project team at Stanford University; Peter Leonard, Lauren Tilton, Laura Wexler, and the Photogrammar team at Yale University; Bobby Roe, Jer Thorp, and the team in the New York Times Research and Development Lab; and, at MoMA, Christina Costello, Louise Bourgeois Print Cataloguer, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design.


In February 2013, we presented the Walther Collection project at the College Art Association’s annual conference and invited colleagues to present complementary projects. Our warm thanks to: Kara Fidorek, Institute of Fine Arts; Constance McCabe, National Gallery of Art; Erin L. Murphy and Stephen Pinson, New York Public Library; and Adrian Sudhalter, Dedalus Fellow.

We are grateful to the colleagues who joined us in engaging conversations and who shared research approaches about the digital humanities, gelatin silver papers, and future research on modern photography at the symposium Reconsidering the Object: Researching Interwar Photography, held in conjunction with the launch of this website: Richard Benson; Alice Carver-Kubik, Image Permanence Institute; Liz Deschenes; Dan Edelstein, Stanford University; Virginia Heckert, The J. Paul Getty Museum; Jason Hill, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, New-York Historical Society; Paul Messier, Paul Messier LLC.; Lauren Tilton and Laura Wexler, Yale University; and Andrés Zervigón, Rutgers University.

Provenance Research

Determining the provenance of the Walther Collection pictures provided a difficult challenge. They passed through the hands of many scholars, dealers, and collectors both private and public, who responded to queries of many sorts: Jennifer Augustyniak, Galerie Bassenge, Berlin; Peter Barberie and Nathaniel Stein, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Hilla Becher; Deborah Bell, Christie’s, New York; Hendrik Berinson, Galerie Berinson, Berlin; Denise Bethel and Christopher Mahoney, Sotheby’s, New York; Werner Bokelberg, Hamburg; Adam Boxer, Ubu Gallery, New York; Peter Bunnell, Princeton University; John Bullard and Russell Lord, New Orleans Museum of Art; Elaine Lustig Cohen; Kathy Connor, Andrew Eskind, and Young Hee Silver, George Eastman House; Jane Corkin, Jane Corkin Gallery, Toronto; Arnold Crane; Stephen Daiter and Lucas Zenk, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; Sylviane de Decker Heftler; Willem Diepraam; Diana DuPont, Corey Keller, Sandra Phillips, and Peggy Tran-Le, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Carol Ehlers, Phillips, New York; Susan Ehrens; Ulrich Fiedler, Galerie Ulrich Fiedler, Berlin; Marcel Fleiss, Galerie 1900–2000, Paris; Roy Flukinger, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin; Jeffrey Fraenkel and Amy R. Whiteside, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; Janos Frecot; Cornelia Frenkel; Barry Friedman, Barry Friedman Ltd., New York; Philippe Garner, Christie’s, London; Janos Gat, Janos Gat Gallery, New York; Philip Gefter; Howard Greenberg, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York; Delano Greenidge; Marion Grcic-Ziersch; Renate Gruber; Michel Guérin; Karen Haas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Monica Half; Sabine Hartmann, Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin; Virginia Heckert and Myriam Katz, The Getty Museum; Manfred Heiting; Paul Hertzmann, Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco; Antonio Homem, Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Edwynn Houk, Houk Gallery, New York; Charles Isaacs; André and Marie-Thérèse Jammes; Volker Kahmen; Annette Kicken, Ina Schmidt-Runke, and the late Rudolf Kicken, Kicken Galerie, Berlin; Susan Kismaric; Robert Koch; Frank Kolodny; Hans P. Kraus, Hans P. Kraus Gallery New York; Mack Lee, Lee Gallery, Winchester, Mass.; Giovanni Lista; Myriam and Florence Lunn; Jessica MacDonald, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin; Peter MacGill, Pace MacGill Gallery, New York; Ezra Mack; Egidio Marzona, Berlin; Laurence Miller, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York; Herbert Molderings; Anne de Mondenard; Laura Muir, Harvard Art Museums; Jean-Jacques Naudet; Francis Naumann; Priska Pasquer, Priska Pasquer Galerie, Cologne; Alain Paviot, Galerie Françoise Paviot, Paris; Dorothy Prakapas and Carey Clark, Estate of Eugene Prakapas; Jill Quasha; Howard Read, Cheim & Read, New York; Silke Reuther and Esther Ruelfs, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; George Rinhart; Gerd Sander, formerly Sander Gallery, New York; Howard Schickler; Iris Schmeisser; Jane Schoelkopf; Arturo Schwarz; Brent Sikkema, Sikkema Jenkins, New York; Bettina Steinbbruegge, Hamburg Kunstverein; Spencer Throckmorton, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York; David Travis; Adam Weinberg, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Wilfried Wiegand; Ann and Jürgen Wilde; Carlton Willers; and Virginia Zabriskie, Zabriskie Gallery, New York.

Web Design and Development

Collaboration was integral not only to generate the research that fuels this digital humanities website, but equally to the development and creation of the visualizations, subject pages, and integrated structure that makes this publication both a presentation of research completed and a launching pad for future scholarship. For their intelligence, their hard work, and the persistence of their vision, we express great thanks to Erin Aigner, Dave Brewer, Hannah Cin, Joe Condon, Chris Dewan, Michael Godfrey, Jennifer Guibord, Sarah Henderson, and Dimitrii Pokrovskii at Second Story, part of SapientNitro.

The Museum of Modern Art

At The Museum of Modern Art, our gratitude goes first to Glenn D. Lowry, Director, whose leadership and vision continue to inspire, and to Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, whose practical wisdom was invaluable.

We called on many departments at the Museum for exceptional innovation and efforts that were essential to the existence of this website. We extend special acknowledgement and profound gratitude to these colleagues, in the Department of Digital Media: Allegra Burnette, Shannon Darrough, Maggie Lederer, Han Li, and Fiona Romeo; in the Department of Imaging and Visual Resources: Erik Landsberg, Robert Kastler, Roberto Rivera, and John Wronn; in the Department of Graphic Design and Advertising: Eva Bochem-shur, H. Y. Ingrid Chou, and Damien Saatdijan; in CE-Tech: Ian Eckert, Jeri Moxley, and Kathryn Ryan; in the Department of Information Technology: Ryan Correira, Mark Jewell, and Steve Moore.

Additionally, in the Department of Publications: David Frankel, Emily Hall, Christopher Hudson, Chul R. Kim, Rebecca Roberts, and Marc Sapir, and outside editors Kyle Bentley, Jason Best, Stephanie Emerson, Nancy Grubb, Susan Homer, Libby Hruska, Holly La Due, Jason Persse, and Elizabeth Smith, who went to extraordinary lengths to make possible the simultaneous publication of an enormous quantity of research and scholarship—scientific and historical—in print and online. Genevieve Allison, Hannah Kim, and Makiko Wholey also provided support.

We also acknowledge, with gratitude, the many other colleagues on whom we depended:

In the Department of Photography: Dana Bell, Ellen Conti, Megan Feingold, Lucy Gallun, Rachel Kaplan, Angeliki Kounava, Tasha Lutek, Roxana Marcoci, Sarah Meister, Eva Respini, Drew Sawyer, Katerina Stathopoulou, Marion Tandé, and Karen Van Wart.

In the Department of Conservation: paper conservators Karl Buchberg, Erika Mosier, Laura Neufeld, and Scott Gerson; paintings conservators Cindy Albertson, Anny Aviram, and Michael Duffy; and sculpture conservators Roger Griffith and Lynda Zycherman.

In the Library and Archives: Michelle Elligott, Michelle Harvey, Milan Hughston, Lori Salmon, David Senior, Jennifer Tobias, Victoria Wong, and assistants.

In the Department of Development: Todd Bishop, Elizabeth Burke, Lesley Cannady, Mary Melone, and Kayla Rakowski.

In the Department of Drawings and Prints: Katherine Alcauskas and Jodi Hauptman.

In the International Program: Ann Adachi, Amy Benzyk, Gwen Farrelly, and Jay Levenson.

Special Thanks

Peter Galassi, formerly the Museum’s Chief Curator of Photography, and Angelica Rudenstine, formerly the Mellon Foundation’s Program Officer for Museums and Conservation, initiated the project. Both have left indelible marks on the history of photography, not least with their vision of this collection as the springboard for this grand collaboration. Galassi also deserves great credit for the Museum’s acquisition of this extraordinary collection, a matter in which an essential role was played by Peter MacGill.

We are grateful for additional and essential financial support provided by the Museum’s Research and Scholarly Publications endowment established through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Edward John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Challenge Grant Program; with additional funding from The John Szarkowski Publications Fund.

Finally we salute the discerning vision and the generosity of Thomas Walther, and thank him for his confidence in the Museum.

—Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator; Lee Ann Daffner, Andrew W. Mellon Conservator of Photographs; and Maria Morris Hambourg, Senior Curator


The Thomas Walther Collection Project is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Major support is provided by The Museum of Modern Art’s Research and Scholarly Publications endowment established through the generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Edward and John Noble Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Challenge Grant Program; with additional funding from The John Szarkowski Publications Fund.

Edited by Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg

With contributions by Quentin Bajac, Péter Baki, Kelly Cannon, Jim Coddington, Lee Ann Daffner, Antonín Dufek, Ute Eskildsen, Monika Faber, Michel Frizot, Maria Gough, Maria Morris Hambourg, Jodi Hauptman, Jason Hill, Nadav Hochman, Inka Graeve Ingelmann, Christina Lodder, Olivier Lugon, Lev Manovich, Roxana Marcoci, Constance McCabe, Sarah Meister, Paul Messier, Hanako Murata, Ksenia Nouril, Stephanie O’Rourke, Klaus Pollmeier, Nancy Reinhold, Eva Respini, Audrey Sands, Drew Sawyer, Kim Sichel, Pepper Stetler, Maciej Szymanowicz, Margarita Tupitsyn, Beth Gates Warren, Matthew Witkovsky, Bonnie Yochelson, and Andrés Mario Zervigón.

Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Certain illustrations are covered by claims to copyright noted in the image captions. All rights reserved.

Curatorial Leadership

  • Mitra Abbaspour
  • Jim Coddington
  • Lee Ann Daffner
  • Maria Morris Hambourg

Project Team

  • Quentin Bajac
  • Kelly Cannon
  • Sarah Meister
  • Hanako Murata
  • Ksenia Nouril
  • Audrey Sands

Design and Development

Second Story, part of SapientNitro


The Department of Publications, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

  • Christopher Hudson, Publisher
  • Chul R. Kim, Associate Publisher
  • David Frankel, Editorial Director
  • Marc Sapir, Production Director

Edited by Rebecca Roberts with Kyle Bentley, Jason Best, Stephanie Emerson, David Frankel, Nancy Grubb, Emily Hall, Susan Homer, Libby Hruska, Holly La Due, Jason Persse, and Elizabeth Smith

Website Project Management

Maggie Lederer

Database Management

  • Ian Eckert
  • Steven Moore

Digital Content Support

  • Deanna Acerra
  • Nina Callaway
  • Courtney Kotsionis
  • Han Li


  • Robert Kastler
  • Erik Landsberg
  • Roberto Rivera
  • John Wronn


  • Nina Callaway
  • David Hart
  • Jason Sondock

Essay Design

  • Eva Bochem-shur
  • Hsien-yin Ingrid Chou
  • Damien Saatdijan


Translators for individual essays are noted at the bottom of each text. Translations were also contributed by Nailya Alexander (Russian), Olympia Arco (German), Masha Chlenova (Russian), Hanako Murata (Japanese), Ksenia Nouril (Russian), Jana Prikryl (Czech), Audrey Sands (German), Iris Schmeisser (German), and Catherine Troiano (Hungarian).

Photograph Credits

In reproducing the images contained in this publication, the Museum obtained the permission of the rights holders whenever possible. If the Museum could not locate the rights holders, notwithstanding good-faith efforts, it requests that any contact information concerning such rights holders be forwarded so that they may be contacted for future editions. Copyright notices and credits requested by rights holders are noted in the image captions.

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Lore Feininger. Erich Salomon. 1929. Gelatin silver print, 1933–44, 9 1/8 × 6 1/2" (23.2 × 16.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther (MoMA 1668.2001)

Lucia Moholy. Florence Henri. 1927. Gelatin silver print, 1927–35, 14 5/8 × 11" (37.2 × 27.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther (MoMA 1790.2001). © 2014 Lucia Moholy Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

László Moholy-Nagy. Berlin, Radio Tower (Berlin, Funkturm). 1928. Gelatin silver print, 1928–36, 15 × 10 15/16" (38.1 × 27.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther (MoMA 1793.2001). © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


  • David Rockefeller*, Honorary Chairman
  • Ronald S. Lauder, Honorary Chairman
  • Robert B. Menschel*, Chairman Emeritus
  • Agnes Gund*, President Emerita
  • Donald B. Marron, President Emeritus
  • Jerry I. Speyer, Chairman
  • Marie-Josée Kravis, President
  • Sid R. Bass, Leon D. Black, Mimi Haas, Richard E. Salomon, Vice Chairmen
  • Glenn D. Lowry, Director
  • Richard E. Salomon, Treasurer
  • James Gara, Assistant Treasurer
  • Patty Lipshutz, Secretary

Wallis Annenberg, Lin Arison**, Sid R. Bass, Lawrence B. Benenson, Leon D. Black, Eli Broad*, Clarissa Alcock Bronfman, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Mrs. Jan Cowles**, Douglas S. Cramer*, Paula Crown, Lewis B. Cullman**, David Dechman, Glenn Dubin, Joel S. Ehrenkranz*, John Elkann, Laurence D. Fink, H.R.H. Duke Franz of Bavaria**, Glenn Fuhrman, Kathleen Fuld, Gianluigi Gabetti*, Howard Gardner, Maurice R. Greenberg**, Anne Dias Griffin, Agnes Gund*, Mimi Haas, Ronnie Heyman, Alexandra A. Herzan, Marlene Hess, AC Hudgins, Barbara Jakobson*, Werner H. Kramarsky*, Jill Kraus, Marie-Josée Kravis, June Noble Larkin*, Ronald S. Lauder, Thomas H. Lee, Michael Lynne, Donald B. Marron*, Wynton Marsalis**, Robert B. Menschel*, Philip S. Niarchos, James G. Niven, Peter Norton, Daniel S. Och, Maja Oeri, Richard E. Oldenburg**, Michael S. Ovitz, Ronald O. Perelman, Peter G. Peterson*, Mrs. Milton Petrie**, Emily Rauh Pulitzer*, David Rockefeller*, David Rockefeller, Jr., Sharon Percy Rockefeller, Lord Rogers of Riverside**, Richard E. Salomon, Marcus Samuelsson, Ted Sann**, Anna Marie Shapiro*, Gilbert Silverman**, Anna Deavere Smith, Jerry I. Speyer, Ricardo Steinbruch, Yoshio Taniguchi**, David Teiger**, Eugene V. Thaw**, Jeanne C. Thayer*, Alice M. Tisch, Joan Tisch*, Edgar Wachenheim III*, Gary Winnick

Ex Officio

  • Glenn D. Lowry, Director
  • Agnes Gund*, Chairman of the Board of MoMA PS1
  • Sharon Percy Rockefeller, President of The International Council
  • Christopher Lee Apgar and Ann Schaffer, Co-Chairmen of The Contemporary Arts Council
  • Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York
  • Scott M. Stringer, Comptroller of the City of New York
  • Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the Council of the City of New York

*Life Trustee
**Honorary Trustee

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