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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Harry Lapow

Dates:  1909, 6 February - 1982, 14 September
Born:  US, NJ, Newark
Died:  US, NY, New York
Active:  US
 
  
For over 25 years he took photographs of Coney Island. He studied with Lisette Model and Sid Grossman and one of his early photographs of an Italian wedding on the beach at Coney Island was selected by Edward Steichen for the ‘Family of Man‘ exhibition at the ‘Museum of Modern Art‘ (NY).
 
The rights for the images are controlled by his daughter Marcelle Lapow Toor (mlt4@cornell.edu) who is the executor for the Estate of Harry Lapow.

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ThumbnailHarry Lapow: Coney Island and New York 
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Harry Lapow was an award-winning New York City package designer when he was given a camera for his 43rd birthday. The year was 1952. From then until his death three decades later, he saw the world through a view-finder, finding beauty in what could have been deemed grotesque, seeing form where others noticed only function.
 
Born in Newark, New Jersey February 6, 1909, Lapow began taking art classes in high school. After graduation he moved to New York City and worked for Martin Ullman, a pioneer in the field of package design. For a decade Lapow worked with Ullman, and then, in 1941, formed a partnership with Ben Koodin, a fellow designer, and they opened Koodin-Lapow. The firm handled major packaging projects for R. H. Macys, Wamsutta Mills, Seagrams, and Rokeach, among others. Excellent at spotting talent, they hired young Cooper Union graduates as apprentices, including illustrators and designers Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast and Edward Sorel.
 
While Lapow continued in package design until he retired at age 65, his passion became photography. He took courses with Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research, and, together with his good friend, Leon Levinstein, studied photography with Sid Grossman. He also studied painting with Evsa Model. Lapow began to spend his Sundays on the prowl, trading in the business suit of an executive for jeans and sneakers, walking the streets of New York, two cameras hung around his neck, searching, seeking, shooting.
 
On one of his first outings, Lapow came across an Italian wedding on the beach in Coney Island, taking a photograph that was later selected by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art's "Family of Man" exhibition. He traveled widely, always bringing his cameras. Lapow shot in small fishing villages in Nova Scotia, farming and fishing communities in the Gaspé Peninsula of Québec, a Crow Indian reservation in Montana, the Magdelan Islands, Prince Edward Island, and later, in Morocco, Sardinia, and Italy.
 
Despite an itch to uncover new places and things, Lapow was an unmitigated, unrepentant New Yorker. He worshipped the city and its quirks, delighting in parades, both those organized for holidays-particularly the Easter Parade - but also ceaselessly intrigued by the diverse and quotidian stream of humanity that passed on the grimy streets. Perhaps first and best, Lapow loved Coney Island, returning frequently over the thirty years of his career as a photographer, walking the beach and boardwalk, stealing glances, taking shots.
 
Lapow's photographs were first exhibited in 1959 when Helen Gee gave him a solo show at her Limelight Gallery in Greenwich Village; he also showed in group exhibitions at A Photographer's Gallery, New York, The International Photographic Exhibition, Washington, DC, Photokina, Cologne, Germany, New York Vu Par Cultural Center, Paris, France, and Man and His World, Expo '67, Montreal, Canada. In 1978 Dover Publications published a book of his Coney Island work, Coney Island Beach People.
 
When Harry Lapow died in September of 1982 he was still working. He had become an advocate for the elderly-a "gray panther" - and made photographs showing positive aspects of aging, seeking out ordinary older people who had not retired from life. Ever vibrant, enthusiastic, opinionated, passionate, and daring, it would have never occurred to Harry Lapow to retire.
 
Exhibitions
2002Klotz-Sirmon Gallery, New York, NY
1990Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
1986International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
1982Retrospective, Focus Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1981G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
 "New York Collects,"
 The Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
1981Photograph Gallery, New York, NY
1980"12 Brooklyn Photographers," The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
1978"How Photography Clicked," Floating Gallery, New York, NY
1975Midtown Y Gallery, New York, NY
1973YM/YWHA, Union, NJ
1973Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
1970State University of New York, Oneonta, NY
1970Suffolk Community College, Long Island, NY
1970State University of New York, Potsdam, NY
1969State University of New York, Cortland, NY
1968"HemisFair," United States pavilion, San Antonio, Texas
1967"Man and His World" Expo '67, Montreal, Canada
1965"Recent Acquisitions," The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1963"NAACP Festival" The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
1962Karen Horney Photographic Exhibition, New York, NY
1960New York Vu Par, Cultural Center, Paris, France
1959Limelight Gallery, New York, NY
1959"Photographer's Choice" Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
1958Limelight Gallery, New York, NY
1957Photokina, Cologne, Germany
1957International Photographic Exhibition, Washington, DC
1957National Photographic Show, New York, NY
1955A Photographer's Gallery, New York, NY
1955"The Family of Man", The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Grants and Awards
1981MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH
1980MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH
1979Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY
1973Creative Artist Public Service Fellowship, New York State Council on the Arts, New York, NY
1957Photokina Citation, Cologne, Germany
Publications
1983Minolta Mirror, "Beach People" Osaka, Japan
1978Coney Island Beach People, Dover Publications, New York, NY
1979The Family of Woman, Grosset & Dunlap
1978"The Oldest Person in New York," Photo essay, New York Magazine
1978"Best Bets" New York Magazine
197335 mm Magazine, Summer Issue
1972"Danilo Dolci" Youth Magazine
1971"Bodies" Infinity Magazine
1955The Family of Man, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Reviews of Coney Island Beach People
1978The New York Times, NYC, June 4, 1978
1978Village Voice, NYC, June 18,1978
1978Newsday, June 18, 1978
1978Publisher's Weekly, June, 1978
1978Chicago Sun-Times, July 2, 1978
1978Newton Connecticut Bee, June 30, 1978
1978Daily News, NYC, May 28, 1978
1978Afterimage, June 1978
1978New York Magazine, April 24, 1978
1978Sunday Journal and Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, July 16, 1978
1978The Phoenix, Brooklyn, NY, June 8, 1978
1978Options, NYC, 1978

 
Permanent Collections
 
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, NY
Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

 
© Marcelle Lapow Toor (2006)
Used with permission 
  
 

Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
 

Internet resources

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Harry Lapow 1909-1982 
http://www.harrylapow.com 
Website dedicated to Harry Lapow and designed by his daughter Marcelle Lapow Toor. 
  
Harry Lapow - Exhibitions and publications 
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