Posts Tagged ‘Street photographers New York City’

A city street photographer’s loners and misfits

August 18, 2014

Louis Faurer, a Philadelphia native born in 1916, made a name for himself as a photographer for top New York-based fashion magazines in the 1940s and 1950s.


[Above, a still from a silent film Faurer shot in the 1960s called Time Capsule]

Yet he was captivated by the ordinary tide of unbeautiful people that passed him regularly on city sidewalks, at bus stops, under theater marquees.


[“Women Waiting,” 1949]

Faurer turned his camera toward their faces—capturing raw, intimate portraits of the lonely, the haunted, the outcast, and the weird through the early 1970s.

Many of his images had a film noir feel, all shadows and silhouettes, highlighting the melancholy and chaos of urban life.


[Title and date unknown, above]

He particularly focused on people he found in Times Square, where he walked every day in the late 1940s and was attracted to “the hypnotic dusk light,” quoted Christoph Ribbat in Flickering Light: A History of Neon.


[“Horn & Hardart Junkies,” 1947]

In an era remembered for its conformity, Faurer sought out individual quirks and oddities. He captured dissonant, uncomfortable moments, but he never sought to exploit his subjects. His aim, as his photos reveal, was to show their humanity.

New York, 1971

[Above, “Chelsea Hotel,” 1971]

FaurerphotoselfIn his 2001 obituary, The New York Times stated:

“For the catalog of a 1981 solo exhibition of his work at the Art Gallery of the University of Maryland in College Park, he wrote, ‘My eyes search for people who are grateful for life, people who forgive and whose doubts have been removed, who understand the truth, whose enduring spirit is bathed by such piercing white light as to provide their present and future with hope.”’

Louis Faurer, above. More of his images can be found here at this University of Pennsylvania page.

Leaping off the roof and into the Hudson River

July 10, 2014

Was it safe to swim in the Hudson River in 1948? Probably not, but that didn’t stop this boy from jumping three stories from a pier while his friends watched from the roof.


It’s a wonderful image captured by photographer Ruth Orkin, perfectly titled “Boy Jumping Into Hudson River.”

Orkin was a commercial photographer and filmmaker who moved to New York in 1943. An archive of her images can be browsed here.

[©estate of Ruth Orkin]

A pioneering photographer captures the 1910s

March 24, 2014

Born on the Upper West Side in 1890, Paul Strand became a pioneering filmmaker with his eerie silent Manhatta in 1921, among other motion pictures during his six-decade career.

[Below: American City, 1916]


He’s also one of the first street photographers—credited with establishing photography as an art form in the teens and capturing haunting images of people amid the sleek, dehumanized early 20th century metropolis.

[Below: Wall Street 1915]


Strand’s interest in photography began during his student years at the Ethical Culture School. Photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine was his teacher, and Hine introduced Strand to Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, artists who greatly influenced Strand’s work.

Paulstrandblind1916Stieglitz soon became a mentor. “In early 1915, his mentor Stieglitz criticized the graphic softness of Strand’s photographs and over the next two years he dramatically changed his technique and made extraordinary photographs on three principal themes: movement in the city, abstractions, and street portraits,” states the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“During the 1910s, New York thronged with pedestrians, carriages, and automobiles, and the streets became the unavoidable symbol of flux, change, and modernity.”

Strand did something revolutionary at the time: he abandoned posed photography in favor of portraits of people unaware of the camera.

[Above: Blind, 1916]


[Above: “Central Park Scene, 1915”]

He stated his reasoning: “I felt that one could get a quality of being through the fact that the person did not know he was being photographed … [and I wanted to capture] these people within an environment which they themselves had chosen to be in, or were in anyway.”

Paulstrandmanfivepntssqny1916Strand shot images of the poor, of immigrants, of workers, of the blind and disabled, of aging New Yorkers in parks. His work reveals the humanity amid a modern city on the move, bustling with traffic, crowds, and commerce.

“Treating the human condition in the modern urban context, Strand’s photographs are a subversive alternative to the studio portrait of glamour and power,” states the Met.

[Above: Man, Five Points Square, New York, 1916]

“A new kind of portrait akin to a social terrain, they are, as Sanford Schwartz put it, ‘cityscapes that have faces for subjects.'”

See the 10-minute Manhatta here—it’s a treasure.

Charles Cushman’s full-color 1940s New York City

February 13, 2013

When you’re used to seeing the mid-century city in grainy black and white or stylized shades of gray, Charles Weever Cushman’s vivid, explosive color photos are a revelation.

[Below: “Poverty, young and old, black and white,” October 4, 1942]


An editor turned statistician from the Midwest who pursued photography as a hobby, Cushman traveled extensively and took photos wherever he went. From 1938 to 1969 he shot landscapes, landmarks, and ordinary people all across America.


But it’s his incredible scenes from the shopworn, slightly tattered nooks and corners of mostly World War II-era New York that are most captivating.

[Above: “Residents of lower Clinton Street near East River Saturday afternoon,” September 27, 1941]

In these Kodachrome color images, he aimed his lens at corner bars and luncheonettes, pedestrians on stoops and sidewalks, and other bits of day-to-day life that may not have seemed so remarkable then but today feel poetic and serendipitous.


[Above: “A busy corner of Pearl Street at noon,” October 7, 1942]

After his death in 1972, 14,500 of his Kodachrome slides were donated to his alma mater, Indiana University. The university digitized his entire collection.

[Below, “Three bums from South Ferry Flophouses” at Battery Park, June 6, 1941]


Cushman (below) kept detailed notes about each photo he took, but who he was and what he was hoping to preserve are shrouded in mystery. His second wife reportedly had this to say, via the biography about him on the Indiana University archives website:

Charlescushman“Charles was a shrewd individual . . . a sharp evaluator of people, and was very prudent and shrewd in his securities selection. He loved life—music, good books, sports, the outdoors, travel, integrity . . . and could not tolerate ignorance.”

[All photos copyright Charles W. Cushman Photography Collection/Indiana University Archives]

A photojournalist’s “subtle and whimsical” city

November 28, 2011

Andre Kertesz, born in Hungary in 1894, made a name for himself with his photos of fellow Austro-Hungarian soldiers in World War I.

“Unlike other war photographs, Kertesz’s concerned themselves with the lives of soldiers away from the fighting,” writes’s American Masters website.

“Part of Kertesz’s genius was his ability to cast attention on images seemingly ‘unimportant.’ These subtle images of the moments of joy and contemplation away from the front were a revolutionary use of the newly invented hand-held camera.”

After the war and artistic success in Paris, he arrived in New York in 1936. Kertesz intended to stay briefly, but financial difficulties and then World War II made it impossible to return to France.

So he remained in New York and took pictures‚ wonderful off-center images with a modernist sensibility of the urban landscape and the people inhabiting it through the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

“For nearly twenty years his gifts remained relatively unrecognized in New York,” states Only in 1964, when a one-man show was held at the Museum of Modern Art, did he get the notice his work deserved.

“Very few artists are able to witness the formation of their own artistic medium. Kertesz was not only able to witness much of the beginnings of hand-held photography, but had a profound effect on it.

“With subtle and whimsical artistry, he took full advantage of a medium not yet sure of its own potential, and for that, contemporary photography remains in his debt.”

[Photo at top left, 1944; top right, Third Avenue and 46th Street, 1936, bottom left, 1943; bottom, 1959 on Sixth Avenue]