Material World Photo Essay

Continuing the example set by Arbus, a gritty sort of social documentation emerged beginning in the 1970s and ’80s, when photographers such as Larry Clark and Nan Goldin documented alternative lifestyles involving drug addiction, transvestism, and casual sex.In particular, Goldin created an elaborate series titled , through which she compiled an evolving record of the people she and her camera encountered.Siskind and Callahan inspired a generation of young photographers through their teachings at the Institute of Design, the school that had been started in 1937 in Chicago by Moholy-Nagy as the New Bauhaus.

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Goldin usually photographed in colour, which added to the harsh sense of reality in their work; this represented a general move toward colour among photographers of their generation.

William Eggleston pushed the artistic boundaries of colour by using it to explore the banality of small-town existence; along these same lines, Candida Höfer used colour to emphasize the tedium of institutional life.

Such efforts had various labels, including “social landscape.” Inspired by Swiss-born émigré Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, and William Klein were among those whose work suggested the effects of contemporary culture on people in industrialized societies.

Often utilizing 35-mm cameras, these photographers caught seeming mundane everyday moments in works that resembled snapshots.

Indian photographer Raghubir Singh, who worked in colour, sought to reveal both the inner and outer life of his people through his street photography.

Other social documentation in the postwar period used the medium to examine contemporary society from a distance.Working in black and white, Swiss-born photographer Claudia Andujar (working in Brazil) and Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide portrayed indigenous peoples—groups they believed were becoming marginalized by society—and their customs.Other important figures included English photographer Don Mc Cullin, who portrayed the devastation brought about by wars in Vietnam and in Africa; French photojournalist Raymond Depardon, who worked in Asia, Africa, and Europe; American Mary Ellen Mark, who photographed street performers and prostitutes in India, depicted street children in Seattle, Washington, and spent time documenting the inmates of a mental hospital; and Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, who examined work and workers throughout the world, exhibiting and publishing a number of books on that topic.Richard Misrach created a massive project, known as the From the 1970s on, as the advent of television news began to affect the popularity of picture magazines, many photojournalists whose work had been published in magazines began to take advantage of a burgeoning interest in photographic picture books.These, often produced in conjunction with exhibits, comprised photographs of newsworthy events or topics of social interest along with informative texts.While these and other experiments achieved some success, it was not until later in the century that colour dominated photographic output and was incorporated into daily newspapers.In the period after World War II, as the United States entered a period of domestic peace and prosperity, many photographers there moved away from documentary realities and focused instead on the intrinsic qualities of photography; such experiments paralleled the ascendancy of the Abstract Expressionist art movement, which similarly looked at the intrinsic quality of painting.Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work!Such direct, unflinching photographs established intimate documentary work as an important genre in the late 20th century.Photographers such as Sally Mann and Tina Barney extended this genre to portray intimate, sometimes unsettling images of their own families.


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