Based on NOMA’s permanent collection, Something in the Way: A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction explores photography’s relationship to the world it records through a diverse selection of photographs that include obstructing elements or remind us that the photograph itself is often an obstruction to the real world.

Since the earliest days of photography, photographers have had a contentious relationship with the real world. Unlike other forms of picture making, in which the author has total control over each element in the picture, every photograph is a negotiation between what exists in front of the camera and what the photographer is willing to include. Some photographers have employed methods to eliminate distracting parts of the picture—masking out sections of the negative, manipulating the print, etc.—but others have chosen to accept everything within the frame, even when certain elements in the picture obstruct others. Still others, especially in the twentieth century, intentionally sought out obstructions, framing the world with bold occlusions that prevent us from seeing part of it. Sometimes playful, sometimes staunchly conceptual, these photographs draw attention to photography’s dual dependence on the real world and on the photographer, who determines how much of that world we get to see. Even more recently, photographers have begun exploring how the photograph, or even the act of photographing, is itself an obstruction to the real world. This exhibition brings together fine art and documentary photographs, anonymous snapshots, and conceptual works, to explore these various relationships between photography and obstruction.

View of the Paris Boulevards from the First Floor of the Hôtel de Louvais, Rue de la Paix


William Henry Fox Talbot

Salted paper print from a paper negative

Museum Purchase, 1977 Art Acquisition Fund Drive, 77.66

Paris 1929 (Broken Plate)

André Kertész

Gelatin silver print

Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 75.36

Das Bäumchen


Albert Renger-Patzsch

Gelatin silver print

Museum purchase, Mr. and Mrs. H. Blumenthal Fund, 77.387


1947, printed 1975

Rudy Burckhardt

Gelatin silver print

Museum purchase, The National Endowment for the Arts, 75.326

New York, New York

1979, printed 2001

Tseng Kwong Chi

Gelatin silver print

Gift of Steven Maklansky, 2001.351

The Photojournalist


Andreas Feininger

Gelatin silver print

Museum purchase, The National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 75.153

Summer from the Window of My Atelier

ca. 1950

Josef Sudek

Gelatin silver print

Museum purchase, 1981 Deaccessioned Funds, 82.36


ca. 1940

Unidentified photographer

Gelatin silver print

Gift of Peter J. Cohen

Untitled (Foot and Concrete)


Judith A. Steiner

Gelatin silver print

Gift of Judith A. Steiner, 83.44

Building Façade through Barbed Wire


Brett Weston

Gelatin silver print

Gift of Mrs. P. Roussel Norman, 85.201.4

Untitled from the Series Cancellations


Thomas Barrow

Gelatin silver print

Museum Purchase, Zemurray Foundation Fund, 76.351.1


Something in the Way is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art. Support is provided by Tim L. Fields, Esq. and the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Endowment Fund.