Photographs can be the most powerful storytellers: 1 picture = 1000 words, as is often said. In fact, some photographs say things words cannot begin to express; they seem to be literally in the world that they show us, bringing famous people or events near to us every time we see them. Press and celebrity photographs, for instance, bring us face to face with a normally distant person—a president, a sports or movie star—and help us to understand them as humans like ourselves.

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Photography as Narrative Art

Matthew S. Witkovsky

Sandor Chair of Photography

The Art Institute of Chicago

Featured Works

  • Berenice Abbott

    Bio

    Berenice Abbott

    1898 –1991

    Meticulous and methodical in her craft, Berenice Abbott’s images resonate with a sense of discovery. From her famed black and white cityscapes of 1930s New York City to her innovative bridging of science and art through photography, her images are in a class of their own in their realistic representation of beauty.

  • Dmitri Baltermants

    Bio

    Dmitri Baltermants

    1912–1990

    Dmitri Baltermants is best known for his ability to capture still-shots of a world in revolt during World War II when he traveled within the Red Army, fearlessly capturing the horrors of war firsthand as the war-torn Soviet Union worked to survive then rebuild. It was not until the 1960s that many of his censored images were publicly debuted.

  • Rene Burri

    Bio

    Rene Burri

    1933-2014

    Legendary photojournalist Rene Burri captured a number of iconic images that illustrate the political developments and cultural happenings of the later part of the twentieth century. The famously tenacious Burri traveled extensively as a member of the Magnum photo agency, and his contributions to countless newspapers, books, magazines, and exhibitions all over the world both entertain and inform.

  • Robert Capa

    Bio

    Robert Capa

    1913-1954

    Often putting himself in utmost danger, Robert Capa worked from the trenches to capture the turmoil and terror of five wars, most notably asserting himself into one of the first waves of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. Capa worked on assignment for Life magazine for many years until his death while covering the French War in Indochina.

  • Walker Evans

    Bio

    Walker Evans

    1903-1975

    A pioneer of documentary-style photography, the power of Walker Evans’ images is in their frank presentation of ordinary American lives. He cataloged the changing nation for fifty years, but his plainspoken portrayals of rural life the Depression era are particularly well known.

  • Adolf Fassbender

    Bio

    Adolf Fassbender

    1884-1980

    German-born photographer and photography instructor Adolf Fassbender was an important player in the pictorial photography movement in the 1930s and ‘40s. This style of craft, wherein images were deliberately manipulated as darkroom negatives or enhanced in retouching to create a subjective ideal, was a means for Fassbender to communicate his unfaltering optimism.

  • Nat Fein

    Bio

    Nat Fein

    1914 –2000

    New York-born Nat Fein’s gift was his ability to capture the essence of a particular moment in time. Over the course of his 33-year career at The Herald Tribune, his images of icons, unrest, and oddities told stories of an ever-changing New York City. His famed image of the ailing great Babe Ruth in The Babe Bows Out earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1949—marking the first sports photograph to be honored with the prestigious award.

  • Dorothea Lange

    Bio

    Dorothea Lange

    1895 –1965

    Preeminent documentary photographer Dorthea Lange began her career as a commercial photographer but gained acclaim for her photographic accounting of the struggles rural Americans, especially migrant workers, faced during the Depression years. Her role in humanizing the effects of economic hardships earned her the distinction of being the first woman to win a Guggenheim fellowship for photography in 1940.

  • Norman Parkinson

    Bio

    Norman Parkinson

    1913-1990

    Norman Parkinson’s signature spontaneity and unconventional style made him one of the best-known fashion photographers of twentieth century. Many images produced over his 70-year career have become icons of twentieth century style, and his innovative creativity continues to influence contemporary photographers.

  • Gordon Parks

    Bio

    Gordon Parks

    1912-2006

    Gordon Parks was a staff writer and photographer forLife Magazine. His photojournalism stories ranged from high fashion to racial segregation. Parks was also a musician and used his keen photographic eye to direct the 1971 cult-film classic, Shaft.

  • Sebastião Salgado

    Bio

    Sebastião Salgado

    1944-

    Award-winning documentary photojournalist Sebastião Salgado is known for fully immersing himself into the world of his subjects. His immense collection of powerful black and white images showcases a range of years-long projects requiring a vast amount of travel and dedication to capturing the truest images of wildlife, landscapes, and indigenous communities.

  • W. Eugene Smith

    Bio

    W. Eugene Smith

    1918–1978

    W. Eugene Smith is renowned for his commitment to the photo-essay form, wherein images are purposely created to bring a particular story to life. He worked as a war correspondent for Life magazine and Parade before joining the Magnum photo agency in 1955. His work intimately chronicled the human condition.

  • Alfred Stieglitz

    Bio

    Alfred Stieglitz

    1864–1946

    Alfred Stieglitz is known for pioneering the rise of modern artistic photography in the U.S. during the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to his photographs, his writing, exhibition planning, and the galleries he managed supported his belief that photography deserved recognition as a fine art. Rather than retouch images to produce his desired results, he manipulated the composition, focus, and tone of photographs to produce effects that paralleled those found in fine art paintings.

  • George Tames

    Bio

    George Tames

    1919–1994

    George Tames was well known for his coverage of the Washington D.C. political scene. Over a span of 40 years, he photographed ten presidents, various congressmen, and a number of foreign leaders. His knack for catching dramatic moments with his lens provided an inside look into the lives of presidents and political powers at work on Capitol Hill.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art