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Modernism & Advertising Photography


Parker Stephenson Photographs is pleased to present Modernism and Advertising Photography 1920s - 1930s, an exhibition of vintage photographs by recognized masters and lesser-known American and European photographers. Photography did not secure a place in printed page advertising until more than forty years after the invention of the halftone process which enabled a photograph to be printed alongside text. Starting in the 1920s, advertising and public relations work provided a means of income for photographers, and a number of schools in the US and Europe established departments to train students for commercial careers. The lines between art and commercial photography were often blurred as photographers were granted wide creative margin to interpret the marketed products and services according to their own artistic standards. This window of freedom did not last long, however, and after the Great Depression clients and art directors increasingly imposed their own views on how an advertisement should appear. Patriotic priorities during WWII further stifled the preceding decades’ imagination and originality.

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