|Introduction to New York City Photo League |
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The New York City Photo League was founded in 1936 by Sol Libsohn and Sid Grossman and operated until 1951 when it was affectively forced out of operation during the anti-communist witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. During the Cold War in the late 1940s any organisations with left-wing sympathies which documented union issues were deemed to be politically suspect and Sid Grossman was documenting such activities.
In its heyday the membership and those who exhibited included such luminaries as:
Some of the meetings were photographed by Harold Feinstein.
New York City Photo League was a place where education and mentorship was available, a darkroom, photographic exhibitions were mounted and guest speakers such as Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Roy Stryker who was notable for his FSA - Farm Security Administration, and Berenice Abbott who had helped preserve the legacy of Eugène Atget and documented New York in her Changing New York series. With hindsight the influence of the League was far wider than its membership as it included photo-historians Beaumont and Nancy Newhall - it was the popular work by Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (1949) that would influence all one-volume histories of photography that followed.
The New York City Photo League was pivotal in establishing a community of those interested in photography - it supported social activism, individuals preserved photographic heritage such as Walter Rosenblum with the work of Lewis Hine, it mounted exhibitions including one on Weegee, it educated and provided community at at time when photography was rarely accepted within museums and there were no photographic galleries.
When a selection of works taken by the photographers is shown together it is a mural of the under class of society. The photographers had lived through the Great Depression in the United States and some, such as W. Eugene Smith, had active service during the Second World War, they had witnessed hardship and the oppression of minorities first-hand and their photographs portrayed the injustice.
PhVW. Eugene Smith
PhVMarion Post Wolcott
- Λ Anne Tucker, Claire Cass & Stephen Daiter, 2001, This Was the Photo League, (Chicago: Stephen Daiter Gallery); Mason Klein & Catherine Evans, 2011, The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951, (Yale University Press)
There is also a 2012 feature-length documentary film "Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League's New York", produced and directed by Nina Rosenblum (Daedelus Productions)
(Accessed: 3 August 2013)
- Λ Constance B. Schiltz, "The Photo League" IN: Robin Lenman, 2005, Oxford Companion to the Photograph, (Oxford University Press), pp. 176-177
- Λ Jack Delano, 1997, Photographic Memories, (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press) ; Esmeralda Santiago (introducton), 2010, Fields of Vision: The Photographs of Jack Delano: The Library of Congress, (Giles in association with the Library of Congress)
- Λ Arnold Eagle, 1992, At Home Only with God: Believing Jews and Their Children on the Lower East Side in the 1930s, (Aperture)
- Λ Beaumont Newhall, 1949, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day, (New York: The Museum of Modern Art)
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