Bertrand Goldberg

Many artists of the 1960s sought to demystify art and redefine its relationship to labor. For some this meant presenting art as a system, even a game, with a set of generative rules; for others it entailed making art into a performance of physical exertion. Photography was supposedly an expedient tool to record these undertakings—a far cry from the "camera work" of Alfred Stieglitz, who created a long-running journal of that title (1903–17) to champion photography as an art demanding great technical skill and rarefied aesthetics. Although it was often presented in the Conceptual era as "effortless," those who worked with photography at the time appreciated its very real particularities and demands. Artists such as Jan Dibbets and Michael Snow studied problems of photographic perspective and scale. Sol LeWitt was one of several Conceptual artists who paid homage to 19th-century motion photographer Eadweard Muybridge, while John Baldessari mined how-to guides on amateur photography, and Ed Ruscha borrowed from real-estate and tourism brochures to create his monumental concertina-fold book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966).

John Baldessari. Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of Thirty-Six Attempts), 1973. Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago.