image: Foto: Modernity in Europe, 1890-1918
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Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918–1945

Across Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland, from World War I to the end of the World War II, photography fired the imagination of hundreds of progressive artists, provided a creative outlet for thousands of devoted amateurs, and became a symbol of modernity for millions through its use in print and advertising. In the aftermath of World War I, the face of central Europe had changed profoundly: empires had collapsed and fledgling nation-states had taken their place (see map). This period of change ushered in the modern era, a deeply uncertain prospect, full of possibilities but also of anxieties; photographic images served as the ideal vehicle to promote or question modernity.

Widespread attraction to photography in central Europe inspired innovative techniques such as photomontage, the rise of the illustrated press, and the proliferation of commercial studios and other camera-friendly institutions. The region also witnessed the spread of surrealist and documentary photography, as well as the emergence of politically engaged photography that furthered agendas across the ideological spectrum. To recover these images is to be reminded how well connected the region once was and how singular and forceful a contribution was made there, not only to the history of photography, but also to modern consciousness.

Sponsored by the Central Bank of Hungary

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