The New York School, the photographers who shaped street photography

Of 1935 at 1965, American and foreign photographers based in New York captured the atmosphere of the time through modern and engaged street photos. True visual revolution and cultural, this new point of view on street photography was defined as New York School. The movement is today celebrated on the occasion of a unique exhibition, The New York School Show at Popular Pavilion of Montpellier from October 7, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

The advent of modern street photography

The New York movement characterizes the emergence of a street photography released, far from the cubist or surrealist approach of the european photography. Where Paris seeks emotion and poetry, the New York urban photography is more experimental and announces the advent of street art. The definition given Dave Heath (1931-2016) allows us to capture the narrative scope images from the New York School.

“My photos are not of the city, but of the city. I have always seen it as a stage, and passers-by as actors, who don’t play a play or a story, but are themselves that story. “

Dave Heath

© David Vestal, Photo Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

The influence of the masters of documentary photography

These expressive photographers do not start from a blank page thanks to Walker Evans or Henri Cartier-Bresson. Walker Evans will initiate the movement by documenting the urban banality and the daily details.

The master of this new modernity will soon be followed by Robert Frank, Louis Faurer or Saul Head, driven by the launch of young publications fond of their clichés and by birth in 1936 of the collective of Photo League. The technological advances, especially thanks to the latest pellicules Kodak, allowed these photographers to capture the neon glow of the nightlife of the city that never sleeps.

Zoom photographer: Saul Leiter

The plurality of views united by social commitment

The urban subject remains more or less the same, but it is his treatment that shows a engaged gaze and a bias where the photographer gives free rein to his subjectivity. This “bite” as defined Howard Greenberg, director of the eponymous New York gallery, aims to bring these images to life through publication and theexposition.

Although motley and fragmented, the movement came together in the 1990s under the name ofNew York School by the historian of photography Jane Livingston. In addition, there are other signatures honored at the Pavillon Populaire.

What this generation of street photographers it is above all the freedom, a engagement social sometimes extended to Politics and a desire to renew photography by establishing a dialogue with others creative arts as the graphics, the poetry or the literature. Like Morris Engel or from William Klein, many of these multidisciplinary artists will successfully touch the cinema.

New York, the essential

While some are native New Yorkers or leave their home state to immerse themselves in the artistic bubbling of the Big Apple, others like Lisette Model or Ben Shahn do not hesitate to leave behind Austria or Russia for this city of all possibilities. Diane Arbus, Robert Frank but also Bruce Davidson or Ted Croner share this fascination for the city that never sleeps, tirelessly surveyed and captured by their goal for write a new street photograph.

© Saul Leiter Foundation, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Ruth Orkin (1921 – 1985)

Ruth Orkin was introduced to photography at the age of 10 and did not hesitate to rally Los Angeles to New York by bike at the age of 17 to attend the World‘s Fair, a journey that would constitute her first photo essay. In the 1940s, Ruth Orkin photographed the greatest musicians for the title of numerous publications. The photographer, who will also become a recognized filmmaker, travels the world but it is in New York, from the window of her apartment overlooking Central Park, that she takes her favorite shots collected in two books.

© Ruth Orkin Photo Archive, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Ted Croner (1922-2005)

His most famous photo, Taxi -New-York – Night marks his period of study within the “design laboratory” ofAlexey Brodovitch. Like many of his compatriots, Ted Croner will benefit from the support ofEdward Stones, director of the photo department of MoMA who will present his youth work in two exhibitions.

Like an Edward Hopper in photography, his images linger on cafeterias, the diners and the night life of these places gathering lonely sleepwalkers. This urban isolation will also be the favorite subject of Dave Heath and its 1963 exhibition A Dialogue with Solitude.

© Catherine Croner, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Arthur Leipzig (1918-2014)

Born in Brooklyn, Arthur Leipzig joined the Photo League in 1941 and will remain one of its assiduous members until 1949. He launched himself successfully as freelance photojournalist traveling the world for Life, The Sunday New York Times and This Week. Of Coney Island at the top of the bridge Brooklyn, Arthur Leipzig will never tire of immortalizing the streets of New York, their workers and children’s games.

© Estate of Arthur Leipzig, Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Diane Arbus (1923-1971)

Beginning first of all fashion photography alongside her husband, Allan Arbus, Diane Nemerov will quickly turn to the portrait. Double winner of the bourse Guggenheim, Diane Arbus then exhibited at MoMA. Among his influences, his teacher Lisette Model (1901-1983) will particularly mark her. His favorite subjects: freaks, these men, women and children who fascinate as much as they disturb. This desire to highlight a America out of the ordinary in search of identity will lead him to tirelessly photograph transvestites until his disappearance in 1971.

Bruce Davidson (1933-)

Bruce Davidson is undoubtedly the photographer of inequality and forgotten. Back in New York after being stationed near Paris where he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, founder of the agency Magnum he in turn became a member in 1958.

Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he will focus on immortalizing the commitment of the African-American civil rights movement. In 1967, he would post his lens on East 100th Street in Manhattan, a poor and neglected neighborhood that he would post on the walls of MoMA in 1970.

Far from diverting him from New York, the 80s will lead Bruce Davidson to tirelessly map poverty along the lines of the new york subway. The beginning of the 90s will be devoted to Central Park ; an exploration of urban nature that continues to animate the work of the 87-year-old photographer.

© Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Robert Frank (1924-2019)

The Swiss-born photographer and documentary filmmaker immigrated to the United States in 1947. First a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar, as was Louis Faurer, he then travels the country to document the daily lives of different social strata. Of its 28 000 clichés, he pulls a book published in 1958, Americans, bringing together 83 images who will revolutionize the art of photography. Robert Franck shaped the photography of the second half of the 20th century.

Sid Grossman (1913-1955)

Born in New York, the photographer and his friend Sol Libsohn and fonderont la Photo League in 1936 in order to promote the photography as a vehicle for social change. His influence will be major on the photographers of the time, his teaching accompanying the evolution of the work of Ruth Orkin, Lisette Model, Arthur Leipzig and so many others. The Photo League, suspected of subversive political activities, closed its doors in 1951. The personal work of Sid Grossman has remained very attached to Cooney Island and to Little Italy to which he devoted a number of films.

Ben Shahan (1898-1969)

His family will flee Russia to Brooklyn where Ben Shahan will quickly acquire a certain reputation as painter and graphic designer. The 1930s saw him share a studio in Greenwich with Walker Evans which will introduce him to the technical aspects of photography.

Strikers and the unemployed will be his first models, an interest in the social reality which will lead Ben Shahan to work in turn for the FSA (Farm Security Administration). His notoriety as a painter will exceed his photographic work up to a posthumous exhibition in 1969.

The original retrospective presented at Montpellier at Popular Pavilion is the first european event devoted toNew York Photographic School. The 22 selected photographers and the 160 original prints in color and black and white allow us to better define and understand this turning point for urban photography.

Useful information
The New York School Show, New York School Photographers, 1935-1965
From October 7, 2020 to January 10, 2021

Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle, 34000 Montpellier
Phone. 04 67 66 13 46
Free entry
From Tuesday to Sunday
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Learn more about the Pavillon Populaire site in Montpellier

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