New York became home-city to many extraordinary photographers who shared love with their home with magnificent pictures. Oldpics selected 65 bright pictures of postwar street life that represent the spirit of the New York of the 1950s and 1960s.
In total, this set features postwar New York pictures by David Attie, Anthony Barboza, Donald Blumberg, Esther Bubley, Jeanne Ebstel, Bedrich Grunzweig, Simpson Kalisher, Jan Lukas, Benn Mitchell, Fritz Neugass, Beuford Smith, W. Eugene Smith, Todd Webb, and Weegee.
Some of these postwar New York pictures keep the identity bits of their authors; some just share their warm feelings in the city. The distortion technique added much to the still recognizable pictures of the Flatiron Building and Times Square. Some of the photographers explored new photo approaches, reshaping their photo concepts through in-camera or darkroom manipulation.
Todd Webb, Bedrich Grunzweig, and Eugene Smith captured the city scenes from the top-floor positions. Before taking his postwar New York pictures W Eugene Smith had just accomplished his Pittsburgh series. Smith’s images belong to his voyeuristic zaps series of the everyday routine outside his famous loft window. Random pedestrians try to navigate icy sidewalks as the cameraman witnessed and captured from above.
Some photographers transferred their camera focus from Manhattan’s architectural masterpieces to the human-centric scenes in Brooklyn and Harlem. In Beuford Smith’s Palm Sunday, a young girl wearing a cross is seated in a packed subway car with her eyes closed, seeming to find her zen in the heart of the chaos. With a snapshot aesthetic, Jeanne Ebstel stilled the pure joy of city kids wearing swimsuits on the street, cooling off with water flowing from out of the frame. Weegee’s candid portraits shine a light, quite literally, on dark scenes featuring stardom such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Conversely, Simpson Kalisher’s midday street images catch anonymous people and groups going about their routine.
Donald Blumberg produced a series of impromptu portraits that shift his subjects from space and time: only their heads are visible, with the majority of the frame filled only with darkness. Jason Farago wrote about the series for the New York Times: “For his engaging series “In Front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral,” produced between 1965 to 1967, he would turn his camera, sometimes as much as 45 degrees off-center, and apply long exposure times to blackout the cathedral interior. The result was to exclude all context, and to turn the worshipers into highly detailed, if physically embarrassing, parts in the void.”