The French photographer Robert Doisneau captured the culture, love and work of Parisians in his street photography. Looking at his pictures made me think about photographers born in the Midwest that photographed life in black and white. I did research and discovered ten famous photographers whose work was completely new to me. The ten photographers are from the Midwest and their images are in black and white photography.
Black and white photographs are historical images of a particular time, event or place. Black and white photography highlights contrast, depth and texture. It continues to be a popular medium and art form.
There were many excellent photographers’ pictures; I focused on images taken of people at work. The ten photographers from America’s heartland are: Berenice Abbott, Esther Bubley, Lewis Hine, Bob Natkin, Gordon Parks, Walker Evans, and Russell Lee, Martha Holmes Waxman, Ed Clark and W. Eugene Smith.
Berenice Abbott, 1898 – 1991, born in Springfield, Ohio, “Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray, looking for somebody who knew nothing about photography and thus would do as he said, hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later she would write: I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else.” Wikipedia
Esther Bubley, 1921 – 1998, born in Phillips, Wisconsin, “A protégée of Roy Stryker at the U.S. Office of War Information and subsequently at Standard Oil (New Jersey), Esther Bubley (1921-1998) was a preeminent freelance photographer during the ‘golden age’ of American photojournalism, from 1945 to 1965.” estherbubley.com
Ed Clark, 1911 – 2000, Nashville, Tennessee, while in high school told a local newspaper editor that he was a photographer. He quit high school after he was hired by the newspaper and went on to become a freelance photographer for Life magazine. He became famous for his pictures in Life and for photographing famous movie stars, politicians, etc.– most notably Marilyn Monroe.
Lewis Hine, 1874 – 1940, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, “During and after World War I, he photographed American Red Cross relief work in Europe. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Hine made a series of “work portraits,” which emphasized the human contribution to modern industry. In 1930, Hine was commissioned to document the construction of The Empire State Building.” Wikipedia
Bob Natkin, 1919 – 1996, born in Chicago, Illinois, “At age 21 he was drafted and abruptly went from being a student in pre-med to being an Air Force gunner photographer during World War II. Afterwards, Natkin became a professional photographer, primarily capturing people in their environments all over his beloved Chicago. ” Stephen Daiter Gallery
Walker Evans, 1903 – 1975, born in St. Louis, Missouri, “For fifty years, from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, Evans recorded the American scene with the nuance of a poet and the precision of a surgeon, creating an encyclopedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making,” Metropolitan Museum Art.
Gordon Parks, 1912 – 2006, born in Fort Scott, Kansas, “The photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer who used his prodigious, largely self-taught talents to chronicle the African-American experience and to retell his own personal history.” New York Times
Russell Lee, 1903 – 1986, born in Ottawa, Illinois. “Trained as a chemical engineer and a painter, he took his first photographs in 1935. He worked for the Farm Security Administration from 1936 to 1942 and remained active in the field of documentary photography until 1977. Lee, who enjoyed a reputation for technical excellence and sensitivity to his subjects. ” Texas Archival Resources
W. Eugene Smith, 1918 – 1978, Wichita, Kansas, “Learned the hard way that photography could be too easy, a matter of making expert images of interesting subjects. He set himself to learn the truth – about himself as well as his subjects. In the process, he produced a series of photographic essays, for LIFE and other publications, whose passionate involvement set a standard for what photography can be.” The Smith Legacy, W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund
Martha Holmes Waxman, 1923 – 2006, Louisville, Kentucky, a photographer and photojournalist who was the third female photographer hired to work at Life. “Holmes’s photographs were published in People, Redbook, Coronet and Collier’s magazines and exhibited worldwide, including at the International Center of Photography, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Louvre in Paris. Holmes said about her time at Life, “One thing Life always taught us: They’d say, ‘Film is cheap. Use it. Shoot, shoot, shoot.'” Wikipedia
If you know about other famous Midwestern photographers that worked in black and white, please feel free to share a link in my comments section.