“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.[->0]” - Dorothea Lange (American documentary photographer (1895 – 1965)
New York: Capital of Photography offers a revealing look at the past century as it contributes to the continuous reinterpretation of extraordinary images. The photographs in this exhibition depict slices of life from different times, places, and vantage points and portray the variety and texture of an urban life that thrives because of the city’s people. The city itself becomes a protagonist that constantly interacts with those who walk its streets. Engaging with the city and its people, New York photographers created a world of iconic images that continue to reverberate into the twenty-first century.
“The Steerage” is a photograph taken by Alfred Stieglitz[->1] in 1907. It has been hailed as one of the greatest photographs of all time because it captures in a single image both a formative document of its time and one of the first works of artistic modernism[->2]. This photo depicts a boat and its passengers during the early 1900s. The photo through the use of line segments seems to be divided into two sections. The top shows wealthy passengers wearing expensive clothing and having a good time aboard the ship. On the other hand, the lower section shows the less well off. The poor and downtrodden dressed in rags and minimalist clothing the expressions on their faces are absent, where the people above seem happy, these "lower" class citizens faces are marked by the struggles they have undoubtedly endured. Shockingly the first few waves of European immigrants were not greeted with open arms, many were instead greeted with insults and rocks that were thrown at them as they came off of the boats. In order to reanimate the subject of photography, it is worth considering routes as well as roots as alternative means to interpret past masterpieces. In other words, although the identities of the photographer and the subject are significant, it is also useful to think about the successive layers of meaning brought to the picture by the viewer, the context in which the photo is presented, and the changing views of history. Unfortunately our views on immigration have not been completely changed, as new waves of Latin American immigrants come to this country, many are met with the same hostility and prejudice as Europeans were during the turn of the last century. Just as effective in rallying social awareness, and yet more empathetic, were Lewis Hine’s
photographs of Ellis Island. Hine’s Ellis Island photographs portray immigrants as individuals rather then as generic and interchangeable subjects from immigrant countries. Hine used photography as a tool for assailing prejudice against immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. “Ellis Island (Children on Playground)” is one example from this volume of photographs. Personal cameras were just becoming widely available around this time, and right away early photographers such as Stieglets and Hine realized its potential as an artistic medium. Furthermore it was an excellent tool used to get information to the masses. A new form of news and journalism was now…