Saturday, December 17, 2011

"The Radical Camera"

Jerome Liebling, "Butterfly Boy," 1949
There's a swell exhibit going on now at the Jewish Museum in New York called The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951. According to museum's website, "Artists in the Photo League were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. Their focus centered on New York City and its vibrant streets – a shoeshine boy, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Many of the images are beautiful, yet harbor strong social commentary on issues of class, child labor, and opportunity. The Radical Camera exhibition explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League." These are a sprinkling of the ~ 150 vintage photographs on display.
Lee Sievan, Salvation Army lassie in front of a Woolworth store. c1940

Ida Wyman “Spaghetti 25 Cents.” New York. 1945.

The League had a darkroom for printing, published a newsletter called Photo Notes, and offered a place to socialize. Its members included W. Eugene Smith, Weegee, Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, and Aaron Siskind. The League showed student work and had guest exhibitions by noted photographers Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston. Like their peers in the theater and film industries, the league suffered from the Red Scare: the Attorney General labeled it "subversive" and its members were blacklisted after a paid FBI informant accused it of being a front for communists.
Sid Grossman, Coney Island, 1947
The exhibition will travel next to the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (April 19 – September 9, 2012); the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA (October 11, 2012 – January 21, 2013); and Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (February 9 – April 21, 2013), so maybe you can catch it one of those places. The New York Times blog "Lens" has a good slide show if you'd like to see more images.
Which one's your favorite? I love the boy, but the girls vs. holy rollers in the Salvation Army one are so funny!

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