OBJECT:PHOTO contains brilliant photographs from the first half of the twentieth century--the most dynamic and radical period in the development of modern photography--but it explores them using a new approach: instead of privileging the content of the images, it shifts the dialogue to the photographic object--the actual, physical thing created by a particular artist using particular techniques at a precise time, surviving into the present with a unique history. This perspective provides new insight into the singular nature of each work and the density of references that each contains while also acknowledging the cultural importance of photography from the interwar period--as well as the rarity of its best examples. Recognition of this importance informed The Museum of Modern Art''s acquisition, in 2001, of the 341 modernist photographs that now constitute the Thomas Walther Collection, each presented in this volume in special 5 colour reproductions and accompanied by an unprecedented degree of detailed information, constituting new standards for the field.
OBJECT:PHOTO represents the culmination of four years of research by the Museum''s Departments of Photography and Conservation and by more than two dozen visiting scholars, demonstrating in its varied voices their remarkable collaborations with the works and with each other. Essays by historians, curators and conservators consider such topics as the political and cultural pressures shaping the formation of the photographic avant-garde in Europe, the reception of modernist photography at the time and in subsequent revivals of interest in it, the intellectual backgrounds that were then generating new histories of photography, the standards and rationale for material analysis of photographs and the physical qualities of the photographs in the Walther collection as evidence of the development of photographic materials during the period. Thematic object-based case studies demonstrate new multidimensional approaches to the photograph as a cultural and artistic object in its own right.