moholy-nagy, rue cannebiere, marseilles, 1928


This photo was taken by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1928. The shot was taken from a very exceptional angle on a hotel balcony on La Canebiere Street in Marseilles. Moholy-Nagy was standing on a balcony and crouched down to get an angle of the street that included the grille of the balcony rail. His unique angle allowed the best view of the street with a great contrast to the balcony railing. You can clearly see the people in the street, some buildings, and a lot of cars as they were very popular in the 1920s. Moholy-Nagy was known for using subjects that were common in society and taking a photo of the subject, not to make a perfect image of the reality but to have a copy of that reality in a photograph.[1] The grille is blurry but its’ distinctive design is apparent. Moholy-Nagy used light and movement to create this picture. He was known for light works that require an exceptional use of shadow. The blur of the grille makes your eyes focus more on the street below. Each section divided off by the grille has very detailed elements.

Since the photo is in black and white, the use of the shadow and light was very effective. Moholy-Nagy was one of the first artists that focused on light, space, and movement. His specialty was in painting and photography. The love of photography came when he decided to marry his wife, Lucia Moholy-Nagy, who was a photographer. They worked closely together creating great works surrounding the Bauhaus. He was also a Constructivist. During this movement, artists spent a lot of time trying to make other aware of how photography needs to be explored at some different angles. They wanted to get away from “belly button photography” meaning only standing directly in front of something and taking a picture of it from one angle. The old cameras would stand in front of you on a stand and take the photo. In this photo, Moholy-Nagy clearly steps away from the “belly button photography” era, crouching down to take the photo from the angle that would not have been used by a photographer who does not value light.

Also Moholy-Nagy used Gelatin silver print. This technique allowed certain objects to seem bright on the photo while the dark high contrast items showed shadows well. During the 1920s, the popular glossy and semi-glossy photos became common. The ability to use high contrasting techniques and new angles gave this art work its uniqueness. [2]

The automobile was also becoming very popular in the early 1920s and La Canebiere Street was a very busy street in Marseilles. The people there had really become enveloped in the idea of this new form of transportation. Moholy-Nagy takes a picture of a moment in history when all seems still yet busy. His angle drops a shadow on the cars and people below in the street that captures your eye. The scene seems as though you could start a movie with it, where the camera zooms in past the grille and the color comes back and the people come to life. This idea of copying reality allows the image to be viewed with a more “real-time” work. The shadow of the people implies the light of the sun which is always associated with time.






[2] Gelatin Silver Print,, Free encyclopedia

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