Los Angeles

Paul Outerbridge

The Getty Center

Is there anybody left who would question the viability of photography as an artistic medium? With high-profile exhibitions of the Pictures generation and the New Topographics group, and a slew of recent or upcoming group shows of emerging artists working in and around the medium, photography never seemed more serious as a medium—or site of discourse. Even Michael Fried, a major critic who by and large sidestepped three decades of art’s development after Minimalism, eventually turned his attention to the once-lowly discussion.

Still, not every photograph qualifies as art—or even aspires to the category. In fact, given the exponential proliferation of photographic images, very few do. But photography’s relatively brief history is filled with many fascinating border skirmishes, and one of the most compelling involves Paul Outerbridge, a master technician who worked successfully executing

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