The Photo League helped pioneer the idea that documentary photography should not only record “reality” but should also communicate a personal perspective. League co-founder Sid Grossman, perhaps the most influential teacher at the League, especially encouraged his students to consider the emotional component of their photographs. The Photo League’s teachings also fostered a spirit of experimentation, especially during and after World War II.
The League’s members were passionate in their commitment to their practice but also experienced disillusionment with what documentary photography could achieve. Over time, this pushed them even farther in the direction of subjective, more poetic imagery.
Ultimately, they would pass the torch, artistically speaking, to the New York School photographers of the 1950s and ’60s, among them, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Helen Levitt. The New York School moved photography away from the realm of bearing witness and toward the exploration of the photographers’ own impressions of his/her environment.