We dream of works of art and social realism that have the power
to change men and transform society — Danny Lyon, 1974
When activist photography appeared on the scene in the early 1960’s we assumed that a revolution was at hand. Here was a medium that was realistic, easily artistic, and democratically available to anyone that could afford the one dollar cost of a roll of bulk loaded Tri-X. The marriage of the B&W photograph with the offset printing press was a marriage made in heaven; for the realistic picture could be reproduced and available to thousands for a reasonable amount of cash. This happy marriage should have spawned dozens of picture magazines helping to radicalize America and putting the power of the press into thousands of individual hands. This did not happen. Instead the explosion of interest in photography spurned few magazines, but hundreds of art galleries instead. Today, galleries, not magazines, have become the major venue for exhibiting pictures. Photography itself has been distorted and changed from what it should have been, into many things it was never meant to be. Photography works best when it does what it is uniquely qualified to do as a medium: reproduce the real world.