The Hidden Camera and the Aesthetics of Authenticity in Documentary Photography, 1880-1945


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation offers the first in-depth study of the hidden camera in documentary photography, focusing on the period extending from the 1880s, which saw the first possibilities for surreptitious photographyvia the ‘detective camera,’ through the World War II era, which saw the consolidation of ‘documentary’ as a distinct photographic genre. In so doing, it stands to illuminate a critical development in the history of the medium: a crisis of faith in photography’s capacity to represent reality truthfully, and the emergence of a distinct, historically specific ‘documentary style’ intended to connote candor, authenticity, and the absence of authorship. This history focuses on four central figures: Paul Martin, Erich Salomon, Humphrey Spender, and Walker Evans.