Our Future Is In The Air: An Eclectic Centennial Exhibition of 1910s Photography

William Mayfield, Orville Wright (1913)

Eugène Atget, Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets (1912)

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Le Grand Prix A.C.F. (1913)

Unknown Artist, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Selling Liberty Loans, Wall Street (1918)

Lewis Hine, Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, St. Louis, Missouri (1910)

Our Future Is In The Air: An Eclectic Centennial Exhibition of 1910s Photography

The 1910s was a dynamic and tumultuous decade that ushered in the modern era. Our Future Is In The Air is an eclectic centennial exhibition devoted to photography of the 1910s, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibition provides a fascinating look at the birth of modern life through photographs by some 30 artists, who include: Eugène Atget, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Eugène Druet, Lewis Hine, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Adolph de Meyer, Christian Schad, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and Stanislaw Witkiewicz, among others.

As cameras became smaller, faster, and easier to operate, amateur photographers such as the child prodigy Jacques-Henri Lartigue pushed the medium in directions that trained photographers of the time shied away from. Since Lartigue was recognized much later as a key figure in photography, prints such as the ones showing speeding motorcar are exceedingly rare. Lartigue made one of his most memorable photographs, Le Grand Prix A.C.F. (1913), by swinging his camera in the same direction as the car, as it sped by. The camera also afforded access to the previously invisible, such as the trajectory created by simple changes in body position, shown in  the motion studies by Futurist artist Anton Giulio Bragaglia.

At the same time, photography became an agent of democratic communication, and documentary photographers used its growing influence to expose degrading conditions of workers, the injustice of child labor, and the devastation of war. Beginning in 1908, Lewis Hine made 5,000 photographs of children working in mills, sweatshops, factories, and street trades.

During World War I, photography was utilized to document the mass casualties of mechanized warfare. The exhibition presents an evocative 1918 photograph of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks entertaining a huge crowd at a war bonds rally on Wall Street.

The exhibition is accompanied by video of Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires, a 1915 serial about a brazen band of criminals, which was shot on the streets of Paris (silent film with music track).

Louis Feuillade’s “Les Vampires” (1915)

Slide Show: Our Future Is In The Air

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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