Skip to Content Skip to Search Go to Top Navigation Go to Side Menu

Moholy-Nagy’s Photograms

Wednesday, May 11, 2011



László Moholy-Nagy was born in 1895 in Hungary. Here he started painting around 1918. Around this period he also moved to Berlin to develop his talent.
Besides painting and photography Moholy-Nagy also made during his life a lot of other art in which he often involved light as a media. He made sculptures, collages, films, graphic design and even more different work.
Here below you see some of his early paintings.

In 1923 Moholy-Nagy became a teacher at the Bauhaus School in Weimar after he got to know Walter Gropius; the man behind the Bauhaus.
The school had a total new way of teaching. Students had the possibility to work with a lot of different materials and were stimulated in there independency and personal development. Information Bauhaus (dutch) or (english)

It was when Moholy-Nagy became a teacher at the Bauhaus that he started experimenting with typography and photography as well. When Moholy-Nagy later moved to the VS, he there started the New Bauhaus in Chicago and continued his experiments with film and photography.


Moholy-Nagy believed in art as part of a lifestyle. A collective mentality in which art, together with other aspects of life come together as a ‘gesamtwerk’.

He was convinced of the forming function of art. He saw the ideal society as one in which everybody is practicing art. This would lead -so he thought- to an improved society. He joined the group MA, which believed in the revolutionary potential of art. more on his theory and himself

the photogram

A photogram is a print of something that lies on light sensitive material and then get’s lightened. In other words: A photogram is a form of photography without the use of a camera.

This is, I think, very interesting.
To me it’s fascinating to see the direct forms of a device on paper. It makes in a way the distance between you and the subject on the photo smaller. And the realism of a photo bigger.
So what you see is exactly what it is.

Moholy-Nagy tried a lot of different things. For example the experiments with the light from different angles. And also many try-outs with different types of material; in special the transparent materials.

The  photogram’s of Moholy-Nagy are often abstract but not always. Lazslo worked with figurative images in the photogram as well. He build figurative images out of form or/and made use of the negatives of other photo’s.
But just to give a little bit more information about the history of the photogram because you might find this interesting (as well as I do) I’ll give you some more facts;
– The first illustrated book containing photogram’s dates from 1843, from Anna Atkins. Not so long after the invention of photography itself.
– In the early twenties there was a lot of experimenting done with the photogram. Notably by Christian Schad and Man Ray.
– from the moment Moholy-Nagy discovers the Photogram (around the time he started teaching at the Bauhaus) he continuously produces them until his death.


After visiting the exhibition Moholy-Nagy “Art of Light” and seeing all his work paintings, films, objects, collages and a huge number of photograms, I became really interesting in them. By reading about Lazslo and looking at his work I found out that there is so much more to learn about him and this time, which I think will inspire me to design and create more photo’s for myself. Especially in relation to the philosophy of Moholy-Nagy about photography. This because I agree with him about how to make use of black and white and composition in photo’s. Over-thinking the work of Moholy-Nagy resulted into an eye opener into the possibilities of photograms or making use of light in art.

some other sources:
Moholy-Nagy: The Photograms, catalogue raisonné published by Hantje Cantz / The Art of Light exhibition cataloque(fotogrammen)
Biography Lazslo Moholy-Nagy [Rietveld Library].
general information on photograms
How to make a photogram

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log in