‘The New Objectivity’

++ From Ute Eskildsen a History of Photography

Germany: The Weimar Republic.

1918, the end of Kaiser Wilhelm’s empire.

With the new republican government universal suffrage was introduced. Radical social changes along with increased unemployment after the First World War (cessation of armament production), inflation and insecurity.

Workers needed protection, trade unions and commitees alarmed the bourgeoisie .

Artists in the early twenties rejected the past; the Kaiser’s time. Aiming for a ‘New World’ toward the future.

‘New Objectivity’

Quest for a new perspective in photography expressed as ‘a new point of view’ – ‘Sachlichkeit’ (objectivity)

Aiming at exactitude in reproduction and precision and a refusal to mask the technical nature of their means.

‘Neue Sachkichkeit’ defined in 1925 by G.H. Harlaub; a characteristic of the realist techniques used in the twenties by painters and applied by photographers.

‘Neue Sachkichkeit’ – desire for impartial analysis with hope that its objectivity would prove positive, clarifying effects.

The changes in Germany’s social structure brought also changes in the attitud towards technical progress. Looking with great interest towards the United States, technical achivement became a determining factor in social evolution but also the solution to all current politico-economic problems.

Two major tendencies emerged:

Albert Renger-Patzch; who selected subjects from the natural world and from the industrial sector.

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy; master at the Bauhaus and the most fervent advocate of photography as means of expression. Also most influential theoretician of the twenties.  Moholy-Nagy defineds this technical medium in terms of its interdependence with light: luminosity was the key to widening man’s field of perception.

Both trends: the exactitude of photography as a technical means of expression.

These positions gave rise on one hand to abstract realism and on the other, a type of realist photography modelled on the commercial exploitation found in illustrated magazines. Between these two were the ‘new observers’.

++By Sauer-Thompso: Australian modernism


German photography in the 1920’s and 1930’s (ie., New Photography) evolved through two highly articulated but divergent approaches: the school of objectivity (Albert Renger-Patzsch, Werner Mantz; Karl Blossfeldt; and August Sander) and the New Vision school of experimental possibilities (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy) that strongly emphasized the unity of all applied arts.
The Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity) movement was an outgrowth of, and an opposition to, expressionism, and it avoided painterly effects of pictorialism which lead photographers to abandon the unique qualities of the medium. This machine aesthetic bought a sharply focused, documentary quality and a matter-of-fact style to art photography and was focused on form and design. It concentrated on the exact appearance of objects — their form, material, and surface and rejected any kind of artistic claim for the photographer since the photographer should strive to capture the “essence of the object”.

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