Admission is always free Directions

Open today: 10:00 to 5:00

Related Resources

Building a Collection: Photography at the National Gallery, Lecture by Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head, department of photographs

Curators

Sarah Greenough
Senior Curator and Head, Department of Photographs
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Diane Waggoner
Associate Curator, Department of Photographs
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Photography at the Turn of the Century

In the late nineteenth century, improvements in technology and processing, along with the invention of small handheld cameras such as the Kodak, suddenly made it possible for anyone of middle-class means to take photographs. Many amateurs took up the camera to commemorate family, friends, and special events. Others, such as the sociologist Lewis Hine, used it as a tool for social and political change. Partially in response to the new ease of photography, more serious practitioners in America and Europe banded together to assert the artistic merit of the medium. Called pictorialists, they sought to prove that photography was just as capable of poetic, subjective expression as painting. They freely manipulated their prints to reveal their authorial control, often resulting in painterly effects, and consciously separated themselves from amateur photographers and mechanized processes.