The Currency of the Photograph

  • John Tagg
Part of the Communications and Culture book series


On 6 October 1951 Berenice Abbott took part in a conference on photography at the Aspen Institute, Colorado. Here, she put forward her view that photography has a strong affinity to writing and that, in the USA, this is to ‘a glorious tradition of unsurpassed realist writers’.2 In the course of her argument she reminded her audience that: ‘Jack London in his powerful novel Martin Eden pleads not only for realism but impassioned realism, shot through with human aspirations and faith, life as it is, real characters in a real world — real conditions.’ She asked: ‘Is this not exactly what photography is meant to do with the sharp, realistic, image-forming lens?’ And a little later, as if in answer, she concluded: ‘Photography cannot ignore the great challenge to reveal and celebrate reality.’3


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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Berenice Abbott, ‘From a Talk Given at the Aspen Institute, Conference on Photography, 6 October, 1951’ in New York in the Thirties: The Photographs of Berenice Abbott, Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1977, p. 23.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Berenice Abbott, ‘Changing New York’, in Art for the Millions: Essays from the 1930s by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project, ed. Francis V. O’Connor, New York Graphic Society, Boston, 1975, p. 161.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Cf. Max Raphael, Theorie des geistigen Schaffens auf marxistischer Grundlage, Fischer Vorlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1974.Google Scholar
  4. Max Raphael argues in Proudhon-Marx-Picasso: Trois études sur la sociologie de l’art, Excelsior, Paris, 1933Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Alfred H. Barr, ‘Is Modem Art Communistic’, New York Times Magazine, 14 December 1952, pp. 22-3, 28-30. See also, John Tagg, ‘American Power and American Painting: The Development of Vanguard Painting in the US 1945’, Praxis, vol. 1, no. 2, Winter 1976, pp. 59–79.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ Working Papers in Cultural Studies, Spring 1971, pp. 45–6.Google Scholar
  7. See also Stuart Hall, ‘The Determinations of News-photographs’, Working Papers in Cultural Studies, Autumn 1972, p. 84.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    ‘An interview with Pierre Macherey’, ed. and trans. Colin Mercer and Jean Radford, Red Letters, Summer 1977, p. 5.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Walter Benjamin, ‘A Short History of Photography’, trans. Stanley Mitchell, Screen, vol. 13, no. 1, Spring 1972, p. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 18.
    Hans Hess, ‘Art as Social Function’, Marxism Today, vol. 20, no. 8, August 1976, p. 247.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, vol. I, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, Allen & Unwin, 1938, p. 105.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Paul Q. Hirst, ‘Althusser and the Theory of Ideology’, Economy and Society, vol. 4, no. 5, November 1976, pp. 385–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 40.
    Michel Foucault, ‘The Political Function of the Intellectual’, Radical Philosophy, Summer 1977, p. 13.Google Scholar
  14. 44.
    Arthur Rothstein, in Just Before the War: Urban America from 1935 to 1941 as Seen by the Photographers of the Farm Security Administration, catalogue to an exhibition at the Newport Harbour Art Museum, October House, New York, 1968, p. 6.Google Scholar
  15. 47.
    Karl Marx, ‘Letter to Nannette Philips, March 24, 1861’, in Marx and Engels, On Literature and Art, ed. Lee Baxandall and Stefan Morawski, International General, New York, 1974, p. 113.Google Scholar
  16. 48.
    Engels, ‘Letter to Minna Kautsky, London, November 26, 1885’, in Marx and Engels, On Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p. 88.Google Scholar
  17. 53.
    Cf. Roman Jakobson, ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances’, in Roman Jakobson and Morris Halle, Fundamentals of Language, Janua Linguarum 1, Mouton, The Hague and Paris, 1971, pp. 67–96.Google Scholar
  18. 54.
    V. I. Lenin, ‘Lev Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution’, in Articles on Tolstoy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1971, p. 6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Tagg

There are no affiliations available

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