In its first show of 2009, Kicken Berlin presented an overview of art photography from 1896 to 1916. The following text is an excerpt from the show’s press release written by Carolin Förster, Berlin based photo historian.
The turn of the century saw the establishment of an ‘international style’ in photography, laying claim to the medium’s recognition as a fine art. An additional goal of the Pictorialist movement was modernity; in contrast to the medium’s commercial and private uses, art photographers aspired to transform reality. By adapting the subjects of Symbolism, art nouveau’s awareness of form, and the craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they participated in the artistic avant-garde of fin de siècle Modernism and conveyed a very clear message: Photography is art.
Rather than being obvious or shocking, this modernity was hidden within individual aesthetic expression and in the art object’s sumptuous materiality. Numerous photography clubs, magazines, and museum exhibitions provided art photographers with a forum for critical recognition. The movement’s important centers included Vienna, Hamburg, and London, and it found its most important champion in the American Alfred Stieglitz, who published the magazine Camera Work.
Study, Heinrich Kuehn, photogravure 1911