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A View from Above: Exploratory Visualizations of the Thomas Walther Collection

Essay by Nadav Hochman and Lev Manovich.

The use of quantitative analysis and visualization for the study of cultural visual data allows us to view cultural artifacts in new ways, to confirm and describe more precisely the existing understanding of historical developments, and, potentially, to reveal previously unnoticed patterns. This essay presents visualizations of photographs in the Thomas Walther Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in relation to the greater MoMA photography collection. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that historical patterns in a large photography collection have been analyzed and visualized using quantitative computer techniques.

The essay is included in the book Object:Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949, edited by Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg (2014) and published on the occasion of exhibition "Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909–1949" at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The essay is also available online in the exhibition's interactive website.

Article  2014