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Moholy Nagy’s “Laci and Lucia” Photography Essay

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2021

The first part of the twentieth century was the time when people were looking for new forms in art and ways to convey meaning through different media. Photography had been quite widely used before the 1930s, but its utilization went through considerable transformations in the 20th century. Laszlo Moholy Nagy believed that photography would be an important channel of communication in different spheres of people’s life.

In the 1930s, scientists, artists, almost any person at all could use this technique to share information. Moholy Nagy listed eight types of photographic vision that addressed different aspects of the human being. For example, abstract seeing enabled people to convey ideas and feelings while penetrative seeing unveiled the essence and stems of objects. Snapshots enable people to capture motion, which can be achieved with the help of photography exclusively. People have obtained an opportunity to explore the world as well as their inner selves with the help of photographic instruments. The photogram by Moholy Nagy, Laci, and Lucia, 1925, is an illustration of the depiction or rather transmission of emotions and ideas.

The piece makes people think about the relationship between two people, as well as such feelings as love or hate, closeness or distance. Therefore, Moholy Nagy resumed the views that reigned at that period and claimed that every individual would be able to express themselves with the help of words and images. The latter were precise, detailed, and straightforward, and, importantly, images were easily understood by thousands or even millions without the need to learn a language. The people who lived in the first part of the 20th century longed for such rich and powerful means of telling the truth.

Moholy Nagy, Laci and Lucia.
Figure 3. Moholy Nagy, Laci and Lucia, 1925.

In order to make it fit the life in the 21st century, the famous quote by Laszlo Moholy Nagy can be rewritten in the following way: “The illiterate of the future will be the one who is ignorant of the use of the camera and a mobile device.” Photographic literacy is, indeed, essential in the contemporary world as people often prefer visual messages to textual ones. The wide popularity of Instagram and similar social media networks is another proof to support the claim. Visual codes are easily perceived and processed by the human brain. Texts (that are also visual codes) need more effort to be decoded due to the need to be aware of certain systems (languages).

At the same time, some images are understood without words or evoke quite specific emotions. For example, a picture of a happy face is likely to put a smile on viewers’ faces or make them feel positive emotions in the vast majority of cases. People often need a limited number of words (or even letters) to communicate via digital means. They become mobile and need to share different things in no time.

Instant messaging is a norm, and sharing a picture of a falling person who has passed by is common. People capture life and share visual codes, so words are often superfluous. For example, a girl is shopping and sees a nice dress. She sends a picture of the item instantly, and no other explanations are necessary. The receiver understands the message and sends an emoticon (another visual code) to reveal their approval. The image of a person holding a tablet reflects the modern world’s focus on photographic means (see Figure 4). People do not need words, but they prefer pictures to communicate.

A person browsing the Internet.
Figure 4. A person browsing the Internet.
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