the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, photography
was increasingly used as a method of documentation.
The photographer's audience became the mass readership
of newspapers, magazines, and books. Line drawings
made from photographs, and later, halftone photography,
enabled people to see as well as read about the
world around them.
The media became a buffer between
the wealthy and the working class, framing events
so that middle-class and upper-class audiences could
maintain their distance and choose their level of
involvement in the issues at hand.
The invention of the gelatin
dry-plate process, the introduction of roll film
and the hand-held camera, and new artificial light
technologies inspired many photographers in the
The Photo-Secessionists, a group
headed by Alfred Stieglitz, promoted photography
as fine art. The Photo-Secessionists favored soft
lighting and muted scenes, similar to impressionist
Photographers of the documentary
style—a genre not so-named until
the early twentieth century—attempted to capture
the realities of life in nineteenth-century America.
Solomon Butcher documented
the lifestyles of Midwest pioneer families. Adam
Clark Vroman, Ben Wittick, and Frank Rinehart created
a photographic record of Native American cultures.
Arnold Genthe recorded the sights of San Francisco's
Chinatown. Joseph and Percy Byron photographed New
York's wealthy citizens.
Lewis Hine Photographing
Children, c. 1910
Social reformers such as
and Lewis Hine
used the medium of photography
to bring evidence of their claims to these viewers.
Their style of photography may best be called "social
reform," for each photographer used the medium to
effect social change.