Subject of the Month

A monthly display featuring resources on specific thematic subjects.

July 2022: Photography


Photography--the practice of capturing light with a camera and exposing it to film or a digital sensor to create image--has been in a constant state of evolution mechanically, stylistically, and philosophically since the first image was taken in 1822 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. This guide is intended to help you explore scholarly resources available for researching photography, dig deeper into the evolution of historical processes, access information about practitioners, and understand different styles of the art form. 


Selector: Elizabeth Clemens




Electronic Journals & Magazines, July 2022

Databases, July 2022

Books: Reference Sources

The History of Photography

The History of Photography : from 1839 to the present

Since its first publication in 1937, this lucid and scholarly chronicle of the history of photography has been hailed as the classic work on the subject. Through more than 300 works by such master photographers as William Henry Fox Talbot, Timothy O'Sullivan, Julia Margaret Cameron, Eugène Atget, Peter Henry Emerson, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Man Ray, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harry Callahan, Minor White, Robert Frank and Diane Arbus, a fascinating, comprehensive study of the significant trends and developments in the medium since the first photographs were made in 1839 is presented. New selections added to the fifth edition include photographs made in color, from hand-tinted daguerreotypes of 1850 to turn-of-the-century autochromes by Edward Steichen, to works by contemporary masters such as Eliot Porter, Ernst Haas, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz.

A History of Women Photographers

With A History of Women Photographers explores the work of some 250 women photographers, from Julia Margaret Cameron to Tina Modetti, Margaret Bourke-White, and Cindy Sherman. The ground-breaking work provides an invitingly readable chronicle both of the women's creativity and of the challenging contexts within which they worked. In addition to the illuminating text and striking photographs are densely detailed individual biographies and an extensive annotated bibliography. 

Location: Purdy Kresge Oversized

A World History of Photography

Naomi Rosenblum's classic text investigates all aspects of photography -- aesthetic, documentary, commercial, and technical -- while placing photos in their historical context. Included among the more than 800 photographs by men and women are both little-known and celebrated masterpieces, arranged in stimulating juxtapositions that illuminate their visual power. Authoritative and unbiased, it explores the diverse roles that photography has played in the communication of ideas, Rosenblum devotes special attention to topics such as portraiture, documentation, advertising, and photojournalism, and to the camera as a means of personal artistic expression. The revised fourth edition includes updates on technical advances as well as a new chapter on contemporary photographers.

Location: Purdy Kresge Oversized

American Photography: A Century of Images

A groundbreaking still life artfully eroticizes the curves and shadows of a twisted bell pepper. These are a few of the more than 150 photographs collected in American Photography that document a century of our national experience. Whether viewed as a purely artistic medium, a tool for influencing public opinion, or a recorder of events both public and personal, photography has been a powerful and intimate vehicle for communicating our values and our dreams. Focusing on one or more images for each year, this companion book to the PBS series considers some of the century's best-known photographs as well as everyday snapshots, examining the diverse roles photography has played in shaping our lives. From the one-dollar Brownie snapshot of a baby in 1900 to the awesome potential of computer-enhanced images at the brink of the millennium, American Photography covers a range of styles, formats, and subjects as diverse as the nation they sprang from. Richly detailed, authoritative, and abundantly illustrated, American Photography is a landmark look at the pictures we have taken, and where they have taken us. 

The Concise Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: from the First Photo on Paper to the Digital Revolution

Especially useful for technical definitions; also includes biographical entries and entries on theory, history, and historic processes. 

Location: Undergraduate Library

Photographers: a Sourcebook for Historical Research

Revised edition, featuring Richard Rudisill's Directories of Photographers, an annotated international bibliography, and six new essays on photography research. Foreword by Martha A Sandweiss, Professor, Amherst College.

Heilbrun Timeline of Art History

Process Identification Tools

Process Identification: Historic Process Videos, July 2022

A welcoming series of 12 videos created by the George Eastman Museum that examine historic photographic processes. The videos are excellent introductions to the sometimes subtle differences in types.

Examples of Photography Types

reaker boys working in the Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co., 1911.

Documentary Photography


Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, and events. It is one of the earliest forms of photography. These powerful images can be agents of change, as demonstrated by the work of Lewis Hine, whose series on child labor at the turn of the twentieth century was largely instrumental in the creation of child labor laws. Famous documentary photographers include: Jacob Riis, Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Vivian Maier, Eugène Atget, Dorothea Lange, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.     

Image: Lewis Hine. Breaker boys working in the Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co., 1911.

Courtesy: William Cahn Photographs, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University




National guardsman Gary Ciko of Hamtramck watches for snipers as buildings burn on Linwood Street during Detroit's 1967 Rebellion


Photojournalism is the practice of presenting events or news stories through photography rather than text. Images are used to tell a story, provide visual narrative, give evidence, or lend vital context to reportage. Photojournalism can be a powerful tool in informing public opinion by showing raw, unfiltered experiences, and have the power to promote change, both positive and otherwise. Famous photojournalists include Robert Brady, whose Civil War photography changed the way the world looked at industrialized warfare, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, Robert Capa, J. Edward Bailey, Tony Spina, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Image: Tony Spina. National guardsman Gary Ciko of Hamtramck watches for snipers as buildings burn on Linwood Street during Detroit's 1967 Rebellion, July 1967. 

Courtesy: Tony Spina Photographs, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Portrait of Cesar Chavez, 1970s. Photographer:  Richard Avedon

Portrait Photography

The purpose of portrait photography is to capture the likeness of a person. Portraits may be taken where the subject is aware of the camera or anonymously, when the subject does not know they are having their portrait taken. Influential portrait photographers include Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Julia Margaret Cameron, James VanDerZee, Edward Curtis, and Yousef Karsh.

Image: Portrait of Cesar Chavez, 1970s.

Courtesy: Richard Avedon. United Farm Workers Photographs, Walter P. Reuther Library. © The Richard Avedon Foundation


Man Ray. Les Larmes (Glass Tears), 1932.

Fine Art Photography

Also known as "artistic photography," this style refers to photographs that were created solely with the intention of furthering a conceptual or artistic idea. Fine Art photography, naturally, varies greatly depending on the creator, aesthetic, and objective. Influential Fine Art Photographers include Man Ray, Cindy Sherman, Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Mapplethrope, Sally Mann, William Eggelston, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Image: Man Ray. Larmes (Tears), 1932. (Also known as Glass Tears)

Courtesy: The Getty Museum, © The Man Ray Trust

A thunderstorm moves into the Yosemite Valley.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography involves taking photographs whose primary focus is capturing the spirit of natural scenery. These photographs generally focus on seascapes, mountain ranges, rivers, forests, and other natural features. This is one area of photography where wide-format cameras are still regularly used, largely because their ability to capture detail and considerable depth of field. Influential landscape photographers include: Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, Michael Kenna, Sebastião Salgado, and Takeshi Mizukoshi,

Image: Ansel Adams. Thunderstorm, Yosemite Valley, 1949.

Courtesy: Philadelphia Museum of Art, © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Museums, Archives, and Research Centers, July 2022

Select Photography Collections from the Reuther Library

Did you know that internationally renowned photography collections are available to view right at your doorstep? The Walter P. Reuther Library (5401 Cass Avenue) features work from photographic masters, including Lewis Hine, Richard Avedon, and Yousuf Karsh, and Pulitzer Prize winning work (1941, 1968) among its two million still images and negatives. The collections are particularly rich with the work of documentary photographers and photojournalists, with a focus on the history of organized labor, the development of Metropolitan Detroit, twentieth century dissident movements, and Wayne State University.

See the gallery below for digital selections, or contact to make an appointment to view collections in person.

Select Photography Collections from the Reuther Library

The Detroit News Collection

The Detroit News Collection is composed of nearly one million original glass-plate and film-based negatives that chronicle the physical, social, cultural, and political development of the Detroit between the years 1903-1984, with primary focus being 1920-1960. Students of photography in particular will find this the collection interesting, as it's negatives of various sizes and formats are representative of all types used in the twentieth century. Over 38,000 negatives were scanned through grants funded by DALNET, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Library of Michigan, and are available through the Virtual Motor City.

The Tony Spina Photographs

Anthony “Tony” Spina (1914 -1995) served as Chief Photographer for the Detroit Free Press from 1952 until his retirement in 1989 and worked locally, nationally, and internationally to photograph the pivotal events and the people who shaped the latter half of the twentieth century. Widely regarded as one of the finest photojournalists of his time, Spina was the recipient of over 450 state, national, and international awards for his photography, including the Sprague Memorial Award from the National Press Photographers Association and a shared Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Free Press for its coverage of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. Nearly 800 selections from his collection are available online.

Dolores Huerta leads supporters of the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) in an unidentified march, 1970s.

The United Farm Workers (U.F.W.) Photographs

The United Farm Workers Photographs is an incredible collection of documentary photography that explores the working conditions of farm workers (particularly migrant workers), events, campaigns, and personalities of the most-influential farm-labor union in America. Founded in southern California, in the small San Joaquin Valley agricultural town of Delano in 1962, and led by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Larry Itliong, and others, the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) has ceaselessly battled some of the most powerful forces in the agribusiness industry in an attempt to organize farm laborers, raise wages and improve working conditions. A curated collection of nearly 500 images are available for remote research.

Children at a W.P.A.-sponsored storefront library,  c. 1937

The Estelle Wolf Photographs

The Estelle Wolf collection consists of 280 photographs Ms. Wolf took during her tenure as a Works Progress Adminstration (W.P.A.) photographer in Detroit. Under the direction of the Michigan Art Project, her assignments involved taking photos of workers on federally funded projects or of the people who benefited from these projects. Some of the photographs in this collection were published within Progress in Michigan, a newsletter issued by the Michigan Works Progress Administration. Other examples of Wolf’s work can be found within the collections of the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. The collection is currently available for in-person research only.

Children pose for the photographer in an alley between Trombly and Adele Streets, 1981-03-21

The Bruce Harkness Poletown Photographs

From February to December 1981, Bruce Harkness photographed the area known as “Poletown,” a multi-ethnic, multi-racial urban area on Detroit’s East Side. These photographs document the the lost landscape of the hundreds of buildings and businesses that were demolished to make way for the construction of a General Motors assembly plant, and capture vibrant urban exteriors and interiors, neighborhood landmarks, residents, and street scenes. Select images are available online.

Jesse Jackson attends an Affirmative Action demonstration at the University of Michigan, 2001

The Dale Rich Photographs

The photographs of longtime newspaperman Dale Rich (1948 -) document the modern political, cultural and grassroots movements of the Detroit, as well as the larger issues of the modern civil rights movement, African Americans in politics and organized labor. It is a unique collection in the Reuther Library’s urban holdings, inasmuch as it is an entirely modern collection, with its dates spanning 1995 to the present. A selection of 50 images are available for remote research.

Photographer's proof sheet of a WSU football game, undated.

The Wayne State University Photograph Collection

The Wayne State University Photograph Collection documents the development of the university and provides countless examples of the student experience throughout the university’s history. This digital collection contains over 1,500 photographs representing select highlights, from 1913-2001 (bulk 1940-1970). Campus activities, housing, events, performances, leisure time, learning, and sports are depicted alongside student, club, and team portraits, giving a glimpse of the changing faces and landscapes of Wayne State’s student body.