Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Radical Camera @ NY's Jewish Museum : A few Thoughts

Stuffing in a few shows while I'm here, to see the Whitney Biennial.

The Radical Camera, which highlights some of the great photography associated with The Manhattan Photo League makes an important counterpoint to the Teenie Harris show.

The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951

In 1936 a group of young, idealistic photographers, most of them Jewish, first-generation Americans, formed an organization in Manhattan called the Photo League. Their solidarity centered on a belief in the expressive power of the documentary photograph and on a progressive alliance in the 1930s of socialist ideas and art. The Radical Camera presents the contested path of the documentary photograph during a tumultuous period that spanned the New Deal reforms of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War

The show included around 200 works by around 50 photographers.

Sid Grossman
Bernice Abbott
Bill Witt
Ida Wyman
Lee Sievan
Arthur Leipzig
Morris Engel
Lisett Model
John Vachon
Ruth Orkin
Aaron Siskind
Rosalie Gwathmey
Marion Palfi
Jack Manning
Lucy Ashjian

Anyone who doubts that journalists, artists and photographers can change the world should see this show. In some ways, it was a bit chilling, given what we now know about the way their images of complex, vibrant communities like Harlem as troubled and damaged helped pave the way large scale urban renewal.

"Being a photographer is making people look at what I want them to look at" ... Ruth Orkin

The whole show has a great push and pull between photographs taken to make a point about poor working and living conditions, racism and social injustice and a gut level love and fascination with the street life of New York. (about 75% of the shots are of NY)

Check out the site which includes a number of videos and an amazing map of where some of the pictures were taken.

The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League
The Jewish Museum in New York
November 04, 2011 - March 25, 2012

Columbus Museum of Art

April 19, 2012 -Sept 9, 2012

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