Subjective photography was an international movement founded in Germany by the photographer Otto Steinert in 1951 which championed photography that explored the inner psyche and human condition rather than reflecting the outside world

  • Harry Callahan Detroit 1951 printed 1979-89 © Estate of Harry Callahan; courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York
    Harry Callahan
    Detroit 1951 printed 1979-89

The movement evolved out of the Fotoform group started by Steinart and Peter Keetman in the late-1940s. The group held three exhibitions entitled Subjektive Fotografie in 1951, 1954 and 1958, and Steinart published a manifesto in which he wrote that subjective photography ‘means humanised, individualised photography’. This was partly an attempt to distance the subjective photographers from the rise of commercial, documentary and journalistic photography. The group retained many of the experimental techniques used at the Bauhaus before the Second World War, but their subject matter was more complex, reflecting the darker aspects of the human condition through their expressionistic and hallucinatory images. The movement was international, and included photographers from Germany, Japan, Sweden, America and São Paulo.

Photographers associated with subjective photography are Harry Callahan, Thomaz Farkas, Gaspar Gasparian, Marcel Giró, Peter Keetman, Takashi Kijima, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Kiyoshi Niiyama, Toni Schneiders, Aaron Siskind, Otto Steinert, Christer Strömholm, Ludwig Windstosser.