Jan 18, 2007

'NEHI' Billboard in a Field

'NEHI' Billboard in a Field


Ralph Steiner

(American, 1899–1986)

Gelatin silver print

Image: 24 x 19 cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/2 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2001.6



Steiner’s photograph of a billboard isolated in a landscape is an iconic image in the long career of this Cleveland-born photographer and documentary filmmaker. For about a decade, beginning in the late 1910s, his interest shifted from atmospheric, softly focused images— primarily landscapes—to commonplace objects and scenes taken in a straightforward technique that emphasizes geometric forms. In 1929, the year this photograph was created, Steiner spent the summer and early fall refining his technical skills, working on the clarity of his negatives and the quality of the resulting prints. This inventive composition combines his interest in the unspoiled landscape with the transforming impact of advertising on American life. Characteristic of his best work, the image joins abstract form, texture, and patterns of light and shadow. Steiner’s pioneering early work was an inspiration to numerous photographers active in the 1930s, including Walker Evans.

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