“I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being,” the photographer Bill Brandt wrote. “In most of us it is dormant. Yet it is there, even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment.”
Edward Gorey’s drawings capture “a whole little personal world,” as Edmund Wilson put it: “equally amusing and sombre, nostalgic at the same time as claustrophobic, at the same time poetic and poisoned.”
A new exhibition of street photography, “Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940–1959,” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, brings together work by photographers ranging from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans to Helen Levitt, W. Eugene Smith, and Weegee; it also includes paintings by Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Richard Pousette-Dart—all of whom were making images during and immediately after World War II. “Abstract Expressionism, film noir, Beat poetry, and the New Journalism are all widely recognized aftershocks of World War II,” writes Lisa Hostetler in the catalog of the exhibition. “It is time to add the ‘psychological gesture in photography’ to the list.” These photographs, with their emphasis on mood and atmosphere, and their exploration of blurred motion, shadows, and solitary figures, are very different from images made before the war.
In 1999, the German photographer Olaf Otto Becker took a picture of a glacier in Iceland for his first book, Under the Nordic Light. When he returned to photograph the same glacier three years later, it was gone.