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Working Machines: Postwar America Through Werner Wolff’s Commercial Photography

May 15–June 15, 2024
Student Gallery

Drawing from the Werner Wolff Archive held at The Image Centre, the exhibition and accompanying publication Working Machines explore the practice of a commercial photographer in postwar America. Wolff’s images of workers, commodities, and urban landscapes document the accelerated rise of capitalism through massive industrialization and consumerism in the 1950s and 1960s. The project illuminates the historical conditions and aesthetic of a practice rarely considered in the history of photography, one of a “generalist” photographer working for a variety of clients, including the illustrated press, the advertising industry, and the corporate sector.

This exhibition was organized by the 2023–2024 second-year students of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Film + Photography Preservation and Collections Management program. All prints and materials included in this exhibition are from the Werner Wolff Archive and the Black Star Collection, The Image Centre.

All events take place at The Image Centre (33 Gould St., Toronto) unless otherwise noted. 

Logo for the CONTACT Photography Festival
Fig. 1

Werner Wolff, Untitled [Foundry worker], ca. 1955, gelatin silver print. The Black Star Collection, The Image Centre © The Family of Werner Wolff

Fig. 2

Werner Wolff, Untitled [Giovanna Ralli at Tiffany & Co., 727 5th Avenue, New York City], ca. 1965, gelatin silver print. The Black Star Collection, The Image Centre © The Family of Werner Wolff

Fig. 3

Werner Wolff, Untitled [Child playing, for "The Science of Toys," John Hopkins Magazine] ca. 1954 gelatin silver print. Werner Wolff Archive, The Image Centre, Gift of the family of Werner Wolff, 2009 © The Family of Werner Wolff

Fig. 4

Werner Wolff, Untitled [Manhattan skyline seen from the Hudson River, New York City], 1967, gelatin silver print. The Black Star Collection, The Image Centre © The Family of Werner Wolff

Fig. 5

Werner Wolff, Untitled [Person sitting at desk, New York World's Fair, New York], ca. 1964, gelatin silver print. The Black Star Collection, The Image Centre © The Family of Werner Wolff

Exhibition Catalogue

Fig.

Cover of Working Machines: Postwar America through Werner Wolff's Commercial Photography

This booklet was published on the occasion of the exhibition Working Machines: Postwar America Through Werner Wolff's Commercial Photography, presented at The Image Centre in 2024. The exhibition and this publication were conceptualized and produced by second-year photography students in the Film + Photography Preservation and Collections Management MA program at Toronto Metropolitan University for the course Exhibition and Publication of Photographs. 

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Working Machines: Postwar America Through Werner Wolff’s Commercial Photography