Not too long ago, I was sitting at my desk, sipping coffee, listening to podcast, and doing other geeky things. The Fishko files came on. It’s an essay podcast on culture and art. Occasionally they do things on photographers or photography related things and on this day they brought up the Photo League. It was something I had never heard of and I was intrigued. If you have never heard of the Photo League its worth a listen. The Photo League seems, thematically, to be the predecessor to every camera club out there, especially the Photographers Adventure Club.
Established around 1932 they came together , with the cameras, to document social change and life around them. Alfred Stieglitz, who was key from moving photography away from the soft focus painterly style, influenced them. They got away from the artistic style which was popular back then and chose realism. “The Photo League was organized around a way of looking at the world”. The Photo League fell victim to government stupidity and was dissolved in 1951, however it left a legacy even though many of us don’t realize it.
In a way, The Photo League reminds me of working with my photography friends and being a member the Photographers Adventure Club. We support each others photography. We share ideas and critique each other work.We gather to help each other and become better at this craft of ours. In our own ways we also document real life. We are not specifically out there to effect social change but we are out there to capture the world around us.
As a photographer I usually try to stick to myself. Many of us do. I do, however, know there are groups out there, like PhotographersAdventure Club where I can be social. The idea of the Photo League is something the that helps me try and be active with other photographers.
If you want to learn more about the Photo League, there are a few places you can find more information beyond the Fisko files. The are books like The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, which give a good written history on the group. Between November 4, 2011 – March 25, 2012 the Jewish Museum held and exhibition non the photo league. When it was done there was a free App for Android and iOS left behind with the images and bits of history available. Of course there is Wikipedia. There was also a documentary which gives a decent history of the Photo League.