Saturday, June 6, 2009

Vivian Cherry And The Women Of The Photo League

video
the audio is from bob edwards' radio show of 8/8/08 The images are mostly from a recent exhibit of the women of the photo league. Those women were:erika stone, ida wyman, marion palfi, sandra weiner, helen levitt, rae russel, sonia handelman meyer, ann cooper, consuelo kanaga, ann zane shanks, lisette model, nancy bulkey, maryann older ausubel, vivian cherry, angela calomiris, jeanne friedberg ebstel, rosalie gwathmey, ruth orkin, rebecca lepkoff, lee sievan. About Vivian Cherry and her site
Bob talks to photographer Vivian Cherry, who started shooting pictures of her native New York City as a young woman in the 1940s. Although she followed various career paths, Cherry continued to take pictures of the city that never sleeps. Now 90 years old, many of Cherry's photographs are published for the first time in “Helluva Town: New York City in the 1940s and '50s.”
Street Photographers are a breed apart from other photographers. They have almost no time to make a decision and they must be prepared to snap the picture as soon as the subject comes into focus and the brain signals "NOW". A fine instinct for the perfect moment in never enough. The eye and the hand and the brain must coordinate perfectly and without hesitation., the rest is good street photography. Vivian Cherry has the gift and has had it since she began her career in the early 1940's while working as a dancer in Broadway shows and nightclubs. Ms Cherry supported herself partly as a "darkroom technician'"for Underwood and Underwood, a prominent photo service to new organizations, which turned her into a skilled printer of photographs. Searching for more skill as a photographer, Ms. Cherry joined the Photo League, an organization formed by professional photographers in the 1930's during the Depression , to teach and support the "art of photography". Cherry studied with Sid Grossman, a teacher who had a profound influence on countless photographers of the 1940's and 1950's, and she began selling her photo essays to popular magazines while continuing to work in Broadway Musicals and Supper Clubs.
Cherry sold her photographs to Popular Photography, Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Red Book and Ebony. She also worked on assignment for This Week, Pageant, Colliers, Amerika and Sinclair Oil, almost all of which are no longer extant.
She made several short films and worked with the photographer Arnold Eagle as a still photographer on a film about Lee Strasberg and the historic drama school, the Lee Strasberg Institute.
These photographs are of work done over a half a century by a gifted artist who represents the countless photographers who turned us into a nation of observers who still get most of their information from imagery. This is the personal statement of the impersonal world as viewed by a "Working Street Photographer".

About the Photo League Exhibit, which included Rebecca Lepkoff
Higher Pictures announces New York’s first exhibition devoted to the women of the Photo League. The show includes work by 26 photographers, from the well known Berenice Abbott, Ruth Orkin, and Helen Levitt, to the infamous Angela Calomiris, and many whose work has rarely been seen in fifty years.
From 1936 through 1951, the Photo League offered classes, exhibitions, lectures, and friendship to New Yorkers united by an interest in photography and, as Erika Stone recalled, an idealistic desire to “make the world a better place.” Teachers such as Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind and Sid Grossman insisted that strong documents also had to be excellent pictures, a philosophy nurtured by lecturers Beaumont Newhall, Ansel Adams, and W. Eugene Smith. At the Photo League, professionals and amateurs alike joined to use the darkroom and enjoyed lively discussions at every gathering. Their monthly journal, Photo Notes, was filled with gossip and jokes along with serious criticism and reviews. The League sponsored exhibitions when no museum (including MoMA) had galleries devoted to photography.
In 1947, the Photo League appeared on a long list of organizations identified with the Communist Party. Efforts to counter the allegation included a large exhibition, This Is the Photo League, with photographs by members and supporters such as Rudy Burckhardt, Nancy Newhall, and Lisette Model. But in 1949, Angela Calomiris, a League member and F.B.I. informant, publicly testified that members of the organization were Communist. The League disbanded in 1951, a casualty of the Red Scare.
Rosalie Gwathmey, who served on the League’s executive committee, remembered that a “real feeling of equality” prevailed between women and men at the Photo League. However, like American women in other professions in the 1950s, women who came to photography through the Photo League often returned to their homes and families. Those who remained professionals settled for second-class status and much of their work was hidden or lost. More than five decades after the Photo League closed its doors, Higher Pictures presents an exhibition that draws upon the pioneering work of the women of the Photo League. This show offers a rich, warm, yet unsentimental view of life in New York City from the 1930s – 1950s, while presenting a fresh and controversial look at the Photo League itself.

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