What We Learned This Week: How Naomi Rosenblum Captured the World History of Photography

By David Schonauer   Friday March 12, 2021

She wrote photography’s history.

And by doing so, Naomi Rosenblum helped turn photography into an art.

This week we noted that Rosenblum, author of A World History of Photography, died Feb. 19 at her home in Long Island City, Queens.

“Dr. Rosenblum was the author of seminal works that helped bring scholarship and recognition to photography as a creative art form after practitioners, notably Alfred Stieglitz, had revolutionized the field by defying the conventions of subject matter and composition — creating images in the rain and snow, for example, or of a pattern that the sea cut in the sand,” noted The New York Times.

Until Rosenblum published A World History of Photography in 1984, histories of the medium had focused on work done in individual countries; Rosenblum provided the first true global perspective on the development of photography, noted The Times. The book was translated into several languages and remains a standard text in the field. Rosenblum followed that up with her other major work, A History of Women Photographers (1994).

Rosenblum, who taught the history of photography at Brooklyn College, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Parsons School of Design and the City University of New York Graduate Center, curated several major exhibitions, including one of the work of Paul Strand, the influential 20th-century modernist. She also helped curate the first comprehensive, large-scale exhibition of women’s photography as fine art, which opened at the New York Public Library in 1996 and traveled the country.

While she had an early education in drawing, painting and sculpture, she was not introduced to photography until she took a course at Brooklyn College taught by Walter Rosenblum, a photographer noted for his images of American soldiers among the dead at Omaha Beach in World War II; he also took the first motion picture footage of the Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated. They married in 1949. “Together,” noted The Times, “the couple became part of the lively photographic and artistic scene in New York in the mid-20th century.”

The Rosenblums became authorities on Lewis W. Hine, the social realist known for his documentary images; Walter Rosenblum faced controversy in the 1990s when collectors began to question whether vintage Hine prints he sold had in fact been printed long after Hine’s death in 1940. Rosenblum denied wrongdoing, but he reached an out-of-court settlement in 2001 with several art dealers and took back some of the prints he had sold. He died in 2006.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Photography Open 2021: Call For Entries

The American Photography Open 2021 competition is now accepting entries, and this year's edition of the contest looks to be the biggest yet. American Photography is known around the world for its juried competition for professional photographers, but in 2018 we launched the AP Open competition for photography enthusiasts at all levels shooting with any type of device. Last year’s winner was Azim Khan Ronnie, a TV news cameraman based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who entered an image of incense makers in Vietnam (above). Is this the year you become one of our finalists?

2. National Winners of the Sony World Photo Awards

The World Photography Organization recently announced the 2021 National and Regional Awards winners of the Sony World Photography Awards, chosen from 51 countries and regions. Among the selected work: “First Breath” (above) by Brian Mena Laureano, which captures sunrise on the slopes of the Popocatépetl volcano in Mexico. The overall winners in the Student, Youth, Open and Professional competitions of the Sony World Photography Awards will be announced on April 15, 2021.

3. Chanell Stone's Urban Nature Photography

When most people think about traditional nature photography, black-and-white images of towering mountains and rushing rivers in the American West are often what comes to mind. But missing from this tradition is another kind of landscape — the natural beauty found within cities. California-based photographer Chanell Stone challenges this photographic genre by working within predominantly Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and her home city of Oakland, noted NPR.

4. Blake Little Contemplates "Protection" During an Era of Pandemic

How do we navigate intimacy in an age of pandemic? That question, we noted, lies behind photographer Blake Little's new series "Protection." Little says that it was his interest in intimacy in the modern age of social media that led him to start the project. The work has also allowed him to explore a visual interest in rubber and latex clothing "and how it covers and accentuates the body to create sexual desire and play." He came to see the clothing as form of protection, as well. And then came covid-19.

5. Wu-Tang Clan's 400-Pound Book

Wu-Tang Clan’s new photography book, Wu-Tang Clan: Legacy, features 300 pages of never-published photos highlighting the rap group’s long history, shot by the likes of Danny Hastings, PROTIM PHOTO, Kyle Christie, Andy Cantillon. If you have a spot for it on your coffee table, you’ll have to act fast, because just 36 copies were handmade in Italy “from top-tier leather and other materials,” noted Complex. Also, be sure to reinforce your table, because the book comes in a 400-pound steel case designed by sculptor Gethin Jones.
At top: From Blake Little


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