The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall

It has been quite a while since I posted anything about Beaumont Newhall’s book, The History of Photography. I was interrupted by life and wasn’t able to finish it until just recently.

I am of the opinion that the last half of the book isn’t history…although I’ve had discussions with people who disagree and claim it is history.

The last half of the book is about photographers that were alive during Beaumonts life and although they had tremendous influence on the photography of today, I think for Beaumont to call it history is wrong. It is impossible to write history when you are living it. Much of what he wrote about Stigletz, Brassi, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorthea Lange, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston…et al was his opinion…not history. Well…that is my opinion anyway.

Beaumont’s opinion on those people that we, today, consider historic figures in photography, is worth reading. However, many new issues have been unearthed on the lives of these people since Beaumont passed on. History has refined their tremendous influence, or lack of influence, on the lives of photographers today. I just wish someone with the skill of Beaumont Newhall would write a new history book starting where Newhall left off.

And so…it is up to you to read the last half of the book and let me know if you think it’s history or the current opinion of Beaumont Newhall on the photographers of his era.

2 thoughts on “The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall

  1. Newhall's History of Photography was written for an exhibition he curated in 1937..and then revised many times throughout the years. So yes, it should not be looked at as THE history of photography, but one of several. There is not one such history but many histories of photography. I prefer Michel Frizot's 'History of Photo' personally [I recommend, its a newer text], but I appreciate the validity of Newhall's text as the first North American history of photography and what it did for the study of the medium.

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