A New York Snapshot
New York City is one of the most photographed places in the world as well as the birthplace and stomping grounds of many renowned photographers. This month we celebrate the early work of three native New Yorkers whose pictures of the city and its inhabitants have created an indelible record of a bygone era.
Diane Arbus: In The Beginning at The Met Breuer
One of the most influential photographers of her generation, Diane Arbus was renowned for her ability to truly engage her subjects—whether children, drag queens, or homeless people. The resulting pictures are honest and unsettling depictions of a range of humanity. Diane Arbus: In The Beginning, at The Met Breuer, is an exhibition of her earliest work (1956 to 1962), most of which has never before been displayed. The more than 100 photographs included here are part of a stash of unpublished images found after Arbus’s suicide in 1971 at the age of 48. These stark, moody pictures are evidence that she developed her idiosyncratic style early on, as seen in black and white works including “Norma and Gallo, members of a Brooklyn teen gang, N.Y.C., 1960” and “Boy stepping off the curb, N.Y.C., 1957–58.” The show is dramatically arranged on columns, each hung front and back with one photograph, all the better to appreciate a unique and bold sensibility. (Through 11/27, 945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.)
Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie at Brooklyn Historical Society
After a successful career as a fine art and commercial photographer, David Attie passed away in the 1980s; subsequently, his work was largely forgotten. A couple of years ago, his son Eli discovered hundreds of negatives depicting a young Truman Capote and his then- neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. As documented in Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie, an exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Attie and Capote once spent a day in 1958 rambling around the Heights, taking pictures of the author’s favorite places for a magazine photo essay; inspired, the photographer later returned to the neighborhood and wound up taking more than 800 shots. Many of the images on display at the BHS were included in the 2015 book Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir by Truman Capote, with the Lost Photographs of David Attie. In addition to the youthful Capote, they show waterfront dock workers, children playing on stoops and other scenes of a very different and much humbler Brooklyn than today’s hip borough. (Through 7/2017, 128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton St.)
Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949–1955 at New York Historical Society
Like Attie, the Bronx-born Larry Silver, now in his 80s, also worked as a commercial photographer, shooting ads for a variety of high-profile clients. He had begun photographing his surroundings decades earlier, winning first prize in a high school photography competition and attending L.A.’s Art Center School on full scholarship. A selection of his early black and white images make up the exhibition Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949–1955, at the New York Historical Society. Silver captured post-World War II New York during a particularly transformative time, as seen in one image of children playing on a pile of rubble in front of the newly erected United Nations building. Several of the city’s landmarks, including the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the original Penn Station are depicted, as well as everyday scenes of sidewalks and subway stations. Some of these locations remain relatively unchanged today and some have long disappeared; the resulting cityscape seems both familiar and strange. (Through 12/4, 170 Central Park West at 77th St.)