15 December 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why. Click on an image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photography is a time-honored visual art form. It’s humble beginnings are well documented and its history recorded. Along with art critics (amateur and professional), there are many ways to learn about this medium. In our global mobile society we can spend an inordinate amount of our days and nights searching for examples of the best, of the traditional, of the modern, of the innovative, of the abstract, of the real, of the surreal.
Recently, I was contemplating entering the Monochrome Awards (due date yesterday; click here). In my procrastination I realized how helpful it is to peruse these kinds of sites to view the winners: the photographs that catch and hold a judge’s eye.
One of the early photo contests was sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company. The company promoted the picture-perfect snapshot. As host to camera clubs, contests, and salons, they encouraged the public and their employees to take a “Kodak moment.”
The company’s first national photo contest was held in 1929. Since it was the start of the Great Depression, Kodak created a marketing campaign that sought to encourage sales of cameras and film to amateurs. The contest had a grand prize worth $2,500.The first-place winner from the company’s first-ever photo contest was L.L. Martin and his work titled “Toddler.”
These early black-and-white photographs take us back to the ambience and lifestyle of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and long before color photography became affordable and the rage. But those Kodak moments also inspire us to search each image for its universal meaning.
Those annual photo contests became platforms that inspired photographic moments, and the two words that became a familiar everyday phrase. They also encouraged scores of people to purchase, for example, a Brownie camera and take that first shot.
For additional information read The New York Times’ online column, Lens, where you can view the article, “An Amateur Snapshot of Kodak’s Early Days.” Click here to see more prize-winning photographs.
Tip of the Week: This weekly tip is the first in a series about women who are known or not-so-well-known as master photographers. Tina Modotti’s (1896-1942, Italian-born, immigrated to United States as a child) strengths were her ability to weave a powerful narrative into every frame. Regardless of her subject (e.g., interior and exterior architecture, flowers, Mexican leftist revolution, street photography, and the Mexican people) her monochromatic images give the viewer much to contemplate. She produced most of her artwork between 1923-1932. Then political activism became her life’s work, replacing photography. Read a full biography at The Library of Congress’ website (click here) and a website devoted to her life and work(click here.)
Modotti’s fame is relatively new, only over the last twenty-five years. Her photographic oeuvre usually was in the shadows of her mentor, American photographer Edward Weston. In the 1990s a substantial collection of her prints were discovered in Oregon, which provided the opportunity for art historians and critics to reassess her body of work. Then Modotti’s renown was secured.
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.
If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.