Photography 1880s – 1920s

This photo of Oscar Wilde became almost as controversial as the playwrite himself. The question was whether photos could be copyrighted. The answer, from the highest courts in the US and France, was that photography was considered an “art” under copyright law and that they could be copyrighted.

George Eastman created the Kodak Brownie camera in the late 1880s and made photography easy for everyone.

Photography for social reform. Jacob Riis took this shot of young street children in New Yorks Mullins Alley for his 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives.” Teddy Roosevelt endorsed the book and the reform effort.

Lewis Hines “Breaker Boys” photo helped illustrate pamphlets and books for the campaign to end child labor in the early 1900s. These children worked 14 hour days in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.

Edward  Steichens atmospheric shot of the Flatiron Building in New York, 1905. Steichen and others in the Pictorialist movement hoped to show that photography was indeed artistic.

Paul Strands “Straight Photography” was a breakaway from the gauzy atmospherics of the Pictorialists. This 1915 photo, “Wall Street,”  depicts personal isolation amid the institutions of modern life.