Subjective Objective: A Century of Social Photography

Exhibition Website

Sep 5 2017 - Jan 7 2018

The public acceptance of photographs as visual evidence made documentary photography possible. But that acceptance varied over time depending on the case that could be made for photographic objectivity, the mode of a photograph’s dissemination, and the desire for social change motivating many documentary projects. In addition, photographers throughout the twentieth century employed canny interventions to alternately exploit and dismantle the assumption of photography’s transparency, and play with our wish to see pictures inspire social change. This exhibition re-examines the genre of social documentary photography by focusing on the shifting criteria embedded within the public image, and the responses of image-makers to these transformations.

Drawn from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s collection, with additional loans from public and private collections, the exhibition focuses on American, European, and Soviet and post-Soviet Russian photographers who use the camera to educate, persuade, and to effect social change. Among the photographers included in the exhibition are Berenice Abbott, Max Alpert, William Castellana, Walker Evans, Larry Fink, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lewis Hine, Boris Ignatovich, Dorothea Lange, Igor Moukhin, Gordon Parks, Alexander Rodchenko, Arthur Rothstein, Sebastião Salgado, Arkady Shaikhet, Aaron Siskind, W. Eugene Smith, and Weegee. Because social documentary photography requires distribution through social channels, the exhibition also includes the published reports, journals, magazines, books, Instagram posts, and other documents that brought these images to the public eye. 

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

  • Photography
  • International
  • Political / Satire / Documentary
  • Berenice Abbott
  • William Castellana
  • Walker Evans
  • LaToya Ruby Frazier
  • Gordon Parks
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates