American Dreams: Iconic Images of 20th Century Life

Richard Avedon, Nastassja Kinski and the Serpent, 1981

Gertrude Käsebier, The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter), 1903

Lewis Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

Mary Ellen Mark, Lily with Her Rag Doll, Seattle, 1983

American Dreams: Iconic Images of 20th Century Life

American Dreams is a wonderful exhibition that provides a survey of the great American photographers of the 20th century. The exhibition consists of of photographs from arguably the world’s most important photographic museum, George Eastman House, and is currently being shown at Australia’s Bendigo Art Gallery.

The works highlight the pioneering role these American artists have had on the world stage in developing and shaping photography, and the impact these widely published images have had on the greater society. Their far-reaching images helped shape American culture, and had an impact on the fundamental role photography has in communications today. Even more than this, we can see through these artists the burgeoning love of photography that engaged a nation.

These images show us not only the development of photography, but also provide some of the most powerful social documentary photography of the last century. We see extraordinary moments captured in the lives of a wide range of Americans, works that distil the dramatic transformation that affected people during the 20th century: the affluence, degradation, loss, hope and change, both personally and throughout society.

American Dreams: Iconic Images of 20th Century Life

Photo-Gallery: American Dreams/Iconic Images of 20th Century Life

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Weegee: Remembering the American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

Weegee: Remembering the American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee (1899-1968), was the son of an Austrian rabbi, who came with his family from Europe to New York City.  Independent-minded, for a time he aimlessly drifted around, did odd jobs and lived in the city’s flophouses.  Finally, he discovered photography, a revelation that transformed him into a man with an obsessive mission.  From the 1930’s through the mid-1940’s, Weegee was a freelance crime and street photographer for New York City tabloids, ceaselessly prowling inner-city streets during the graveyard shift.  He loved the darkest hours, because then he had the photographic turf all to himself, but also owing to the fact that the most evil of crimes are carried out at night, under the cover of darkness.

Always prepared, Weegee stalked the streets in a car equipped with a police radio, a typewriter, developing equipment, a supply of cigars and a change of underwear.  He was a one-man photo factory: he drove to a crime scene, took the pictures, developed the film in his car trunk and delivered finished the prints himself.  Weegee was well aware of social problems in the city, documenting the struggles of people living through the Depression, the sufferings of people who experienced segregation and violent racial bias attacks, and the hardships of indigent immigrants packed into already poverty-stricken, desolate and crime-ridden neighborhoods of the city, especially the Lower East Side.

Eventually, the glamor of Hollywood beckoned, and Weegee moved there in 1946, where he worked in the film industry as an actor, consultant and photographer.  He socialized  with big-name Hollywood stars and got small acting parts in films, but he never really felt like he fit into what he called “The Land of the Zombies” and moved back to Manhattan in 1951, where he lived until his death in 1968.

Weegee: The American Photographer Who First  Made Night Noir

Weegee Speaks About His Career in Photography

Weegee: A Tribute to Arthur Fellig

Slide Show: Weegee/The American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

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