Going to be near Massachusetts in the next couple of weeks? Stop by Amherst College, where PHOTOdocument: 20th Century American Photography and Found Text, will be on display through July 22, 2012.
The exhibition, presented chronologically from 1917 to 1988, calls attention to the ways in which written language played into the development of documentary-style photography.
Each of the 32 images in PHOTOdocument present “found text”–words and phrases that were discovered but not manipulated by the photographer–as their primary subject matter. The featured photographers list is catholic, demonstrating a massive preoccupation with language and signage in the 20th century; there are images from Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Mary Ellen Mark, and even Weegee.
When weaved into a single exhibit, the collection offers unique insight into the discrepancy between the American Dream and 20th century reality.
Fortunately, for those too far from Amherst to make the trip, an online archive of PHOTOdocument is available through Amherst College. There’s also an exhibit catalog.