A photographer captures Times Square in color

Born in Paris in 1906 and trained as an architect, Andreas Feininger arrived in New York in 1939.

He soon landed a job as a staff photographer for Life magazine, which lasted into the early 1960s.

In that time, he had the opportunity to shoot all kinds of people and places. He’s known for his sweeping black and white vistas of the city skyline, buildings, and industry.

But it’s his color photos of 1950s Times Square that capture something magical and luminous.

The eerie glow of billboard lights, sidewalks slick with rain, and faceless bodies milling about under theater marquees depict Times Square’s midcentury beauty and mystery.

“I see the city as a living organism: dynamic, sometimes violent, and even brutal,” he reportedly said.

See more of Feininger’s haunting, glorious New York photos (mostly in black and white) here.

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26 Responses to “A photographer captures Times Square in color”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    What a great place that Automat was! I used to cut out of Haaren HS on 59th St & 10th Ave and just wander about the Times Square streets. The Automat was always the place to drop in and have a soda for 10 or 15 cents, coffee was only a nickel, which I never had anyway. But all Automats looked like the one on 47th St, 39th St & Broadway, 14th St & 4th Ave, etc. Must of been the same firm that designed them at the time. Think you could can call it The Automat Architecture, if the was such a thing.

  2. Lyn Ribisi Says:

    Loved those! Thanks so much for posting!

  3. almazzone Says:

    Actually there were a dozen different designs for the Automats. The original one in Philadelphia opened in 1902. By the time the first one in New York opened 10 years later the Automat had already undergone several revisions.
    By the way, we have brought back the Horn & Hardart coffee that was served at the Automats. http://www.HornAndHardartCoffee.net
    In the past year H&H lovers from 33 states, 4 countries, the U.S. Army and Navy, have found us.
    We just couldn’t forget the Automat.

  4. almazzone Says:

    Actually, there were a dozen different designs for the Automats. The first one opened in Philadelphia in 1902. By the time the Automats made it to New York 10 years later, the format had already gone through several revisions. One of the last to be built, in NY’s Terminal building, was extremely sleek and more in the Modernist style than previous ones.
    By the way, we could not forget the Automats and have brought back the Horn & Hardart coffee that was served there. Over the past year Automat lovers from 33 states, 4 countries, the U.S. Army and Navy have found us. http://www.HornAndHardardCoffee.net and ordered coffee.

  5. Lyn Ribisi Says:

    Let’s start a nation-wide movement to bring Automats to every city! I loved them!

  6. almazzone Says:

    Apologize for the duplicate comments. %>{

  7. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Would be hard to bring those days back, they thrived on ‘a glass of water and a toothpick,’ which was the usual meals for most of the people who survived in those days, nibbling on left-behinds from other eaters. Going back is nice but not really, when you think about it.

  8. Essence Says:

    I remember the Philly Horn & Hardart automat from my childhood….brings back memories. Still can remember the taste of the pies, quite good actually.

    There was an attempt to bring back automats to NYC, at least one, on St Mark’s Place a couple of years ago. It was often busy, but still closed down.

    Probably not the right location for it…? Maybe better in midtown or Bowery….

    • almazzone Says:

      St. Marks Place was called BAMM Automat. No connection to the original. It was started by three young guys fresh out of school. Unfortunately, they had a falling out early on and it became a distraction for the two remaining partners. Add to that being underfunded and trying to run a 24/7 operation, and you have a recipe for disaster.
      In any case, I was sorry to see it go. It was a fun place and exposed another generation to the Automat concept.

      • Essence Says:

        Yes I thought it was a good idea….I didn’t mean to imply in any way that there was a formal connection between H&H and the BAMM automat, only that this Saint Mark’s automat was the only recent attempt to I know of to open an automat in NYC….

        What with all the retro culture on the continuous rise (see vinyl record sales, for example, including 45s and even 78s), it seems that the time is ripe for someone to bring back full scale automats.

  9. Essence Says:

    Since we are still in the Not-so-Great Depression, sorry, I mean, Recession, many of us certainly appreciate inexpensive dining options. Some of these options can be cheaper than cooking at home (B&H borsch!)…..So affordable automats would be a welcome addition to the city. I fear that if a developer decides to open automats on the Bowery now, though, they will be “ironic”, serving “artisanal” at pre-Recession prices.

    Edited: I just found out that the recession is over so my comment is irrelevant.

    I sure could go for a slice of H&H apple pie now.

    • almazzone Says:

      My favorite was pumpkin pie.

      It would be difficult to duplicate the original Automat today. Assuming there was a demand, changes to the health department regulations regarding prepared foods would require serious modifications.

      But the largest obstacle was the scale of the operation. The Automats were for the most part VERY large. The flagship one in NYC sat over 1,000 people. Amazing. In addition, a high percentage of the food (soups for instance) were made in a central commissary and delivered to the restaurants twice a day. This allowed them to maintain quality while at the same time keeping costs down. Everything revolved around serving a large number of people every day, throughout the day.

      With today’s fuel costs and the high price of real estate, I don’t know that you could put together a profitable Automat chain today.

      All that having been said: I still think about it. ;>)

  10. Essence Says:

    Yes, I remember the pumpkin pie well also! I’m sure someone with a business sense could figure out how to make it work….

  11. breweries in michigan Says:

    Thanks so much for the photos, I could look at them all day, I love old pictures of NY and other cities.. I love the look of the 1920-1960’s every sign looks so artistic!

  12. Beth Says:

    Untapped Cities recently did an article about a former H&H building on 104th St. Interesting stuff.


  13. almazzone Says:

    Thanks Beth,

    We have a story about that building on our website http://www.hornandhardart.info in the “Stories” tab.

    However, the photos in the link you posted are much more detailed and interesting. I appreciate you letting me know.


  14. drij Says:

    Are all of these from the 50s? That one marquee says they’re showing a “Jap atrocities” newsreel

  15. wildnewyork Says:

    You might be right–also, the Captain Kidd movie came out in 1945. I will investigate. I apologize if the decade is wrong….

  16. drij Says:

    No worries! It’d just change my perception of 50s America drastically if they were still showing newsreels like that =)

  17. nycedges Says:

    I’m a fan of Feininger, but have never seen these — nice!
    @Beth thanks for that link too

  18. Elsewhere « Visualingual Says:

    […] A Photographer Captures Times Square in Color: amazing photos from the 1950s. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  19. What lunch looked like on Fifth Avenue in 1950 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] photographer Andreas Feininger, who worked for Life through the early 1960s, captures the Midcentury madness and a sea of straw hats in Lunch Rush, […]

  20. New York is a city of rooftop wooden water tanks | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Photographer Andreas Feininger captured their beauty under a dusting of snow in this image, from 1952. I don’t know where this was taken, but there’s a good chance the water towers look exactly the same today. […]

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