Lisette Model and the Inward Turn of Photographic Modernism


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


Lisette Model was a pivotal figure in the development of postwar American photography. This dissertation balances close reading of her photographs with an interrogation of the networks that sustained her—the leftist Photo League, which exhibited the Jewish immigrant’s creative work; the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, which employed her through the 1940s; and the New School for Social Research, where she taught for thirty years. This analysis reveals that across these areas of her work, against the backdrop of WWII and the Cold War, Model pushed for an art that was subjective in nature. In so doing, she catalyzed an inward turn that pervaded mid-twentieth-century photography, paving the way for the psychologically inflected work of Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and her student Diane Arbus.