Margaret Grace Innes F'17
Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art 2017
History of Art and Architecture
Signs of Labor in the American Photographic Press, 1926-1951
This dissertation examines distribution as a central concern of photographic production between 1926 and 1951. During this period, the American left-wing press served as a key site of reception for European avant-garde practices that retheorized the public function of art and photography’s role in reaching a mass audience. Three case studies chart the evolving visual tactics of leftist pictorials and their dialogical relationship with photographers’ work: the reception of German photomontage and worker photography in the American pictorial “Labor Defender” from 1926 to 1937; the use of the pictorial statistical methods of Viennese philosopher Otto Neurath and Cologne artist Gerd Arntz in “Photo-History” magazine in 1937 and 1938; and the formation of the New York Photo League, which was active from 1936 to 1951 and whose genealogical ties to “Labor Defender” complicate the group’s professedly straight, documentary aesthetic of the 1930s and 1940s. Taken together, these studies reframe American photography of the interwar period between art and mass culture.