Taken between 1900 and the 1990s, these photographs embody a critique of social conditions while conveying the exhilaration of New York.
Over the last century, New York has fascinated photographers. Some of them emphasized the skyline and famous bustle of the city. Others focused on the expressive faces of its citizens, which projected the joys, travails, and follies of urban life. As these photographers prowled the streets, they recognized the metropolis as far more than just a charismatic place. They viewed it as the capital of modern times, infused with an energy born of hope and conflict.
The work in New York: Capital of Photography embodies a critique of social conditions and conveys an affection for citizens in a hard place. Lewis Hine’s engaged response to people in abrasive circumstances foreshadowed the work of Ben Shahn and Walker Evans, influenced the activists of the Photo League, and is evident in the photographs of Helen Levitt, Roy DeCarava, and Louis Faurer. Their lineage turned tragic with the work of Lisette Model, satiric with the photographs of William Klein, and bitter in the art of Leon Levinstein. Later photographers—Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Bruce Davidson, and Nan Goldin—transformed a long-term solicitude into a new fascination with outcasts and subcultures.