László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy, living in the ‘machine age’, he was a great believer in developing new technology and methods. Moholy-Nagy worked with a range of different mediums throughout his life, including a selection of photograms – the name he created, and we still use today.

Moholy-Nagy was intrigued by the effects of light and its relationship with the objects he put on his paper. He was eager to control his works, and he developed a skill in the darkroom for composing impressive photograms. In order to gain the effects he wanted, many of his images use multiple exposures, varieties of opaque and translucent objects and compositions that have strong lines and often give a sense of perspective.

Working in this 1920’s and 30’s, his work his largely abstract, with importance not on the objects themselves but their effects in terms of light, tone and shadow.

‘Photogram’, Gelatin Silver Print, 1922
Essentially abstract, Moholy-Nagy has here used an impressive composition to create an image that is intriguing and skilled. The shapes involved appear to interconnect together, with tones moving from dark outer greys to the white in the centre. The central ‘mesh’ gives a texture to the area, while the curves of the outer parts of the piece create a pattern. All lines in this image curve and bend, to give a fluid appearance to an otherwise stark photogram. The use of multiple exposures has worked very well here, to highlight the centre, and also reinforce the circular shape of it and the lighter area created around it. The different tones create a perspective and viewpoint, which I see as looking down, suggesting ideas such as the impression of a road network into a city.

‘Photogram’, Gelatin Silver Print, 1928
Strong lines in this image lead up and through it, with clear, sharp outlines from opaque objects and also softer, more tonal areas set as a kind of background. This photogram is quite simple in its appearance, but its composition will have been carefully thought out by Moholy-Nagy. I see this as a look at nature, with two flowers laying on the page. Their random positioning maybe a link back to early photographer’s work, with an abstract take on the scientific style of the pioneers.

‘Photogram, 1939’, Gelatin Silver Print, 1939
This piece has a very strong line curving through its centre. Coming in at one side, it leads through the image and around its central feature. The oval shape has the appearance of 3D, with darker tones on the side. The piece can be seen to show new life, with an egg and sperm.