Chronology MMoCA Collects


Street Photography (1945–1960)

Scenes of city life date back to the beginnings of photography in the early nineteenth century. In the United States, documentary photography that focused on urban subjects became important in the years between World Wars I and II (1918–1939). Straightforward in technique, it could celebrate and criticize society. This tradition continued after World War II—but with a fresh approach. In Chicago and New York, documentary photography entered a new phase known as street photography. Photographers, such as Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, and William Klein, sought a candid and raw look at urban life that was improvisational. They wished to record the insignificant moments of the middle and lower classes as they went about their business in streets, diners, parks, and nightspots. Their haphazard compositions have the quality of casual snapshots, enforced with other "photographic mistakes" of grainy, out-of-focus blurs, off-kilter framing, and abrupt cropping. The spontaneity of street photography found contemporary parallels in the free brushwork of Abstract Expressionism and postwar American jazz.