It is hard to imagine a world without colour photography but before the 1950s, colour photography was mainly used for fashion and advertising purposes. It soon started to become available to more people and this exhibition highlights a wide range of colour photographs taken in New York from that time.
An exhibition is currently ongoing called “New York in Colour.” This is an exhibition at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York that includes photographs from a range of artists including Bruce Davidson, Ernst Haas, Saul Leiter, Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Marvin Newman, and numerous others. The exhibition captures the visual spirit of New York through a wide array of vibrant, romantic, graphic, and consistently colourful images that describe the city in ways not achievable through a monochromatic palette.
Before the 1950s, colour film was a medium primarily used for fashion, advertising, and family photos, but this was about to change, and it eventually became available to consumers. Colour photography quality increase as decades went on, people began to use it more, many photographers began to experiment with it and, as you can see from the results, they are very striking.
Saul Leiter came to colour photography as an accomplished painter and fashion photographer and invented his own poetic and nuanced vocabulary for describing New York. The layered, muted tones of his work are expressive in a way that was new for photographic imagery, particularly when depicting a subject as gritty and stark as the city.
Ernst Haas was seriously experimenting with colour photography in the early 1950s and, in 1962, was the first artist to have a show at MoMA devoted to colour photographs. Through long exposures, his photographs captured patterns of light and motion.
Marvin Newman, a member of the Photo League, had studied at the Chicago Institute of Design where experimentation was encouraged. He captured the garishness of Times Square and the jarring chaos of 42nd Street in images that blend elements of street photography with abstraction.
As a successful art director and graphic designer, Joel Meyerowitz understood the potential of colour when he began photographing the streets of New York in the early 1960s. He concentrated on the interplay between light and shadow, which when expressed in colour, took on a heightened level of specificity and intimacy.
A myriad of other artists and approaches are present in the exhibition, each image possessing its own particular style, emotional state and palette. From the soft, lyrical tones of Helen Levitt’s children and the intensely, saturated spectrum of Bruce Davidson’s subway, to the graphic compositions of Jeff Mermelstein and Jerry Dantzic, to the focal manipulations of Susan Wides and staged tableaux of Gail Albert Halaban, the exhibition radiates visual dynamism and artistic innovation.
The exhibition was inspired and co-curated by Bob Shamis, photographic historian, independent curator, photographer and author of the recent publication, New York in Colour upon which the exhibition was based.
The exhibition runs until March 17, 2012.
Howard Greenberg Gallery
The Fuller Building
41 East 57 Street
New York, NY 10022
Tuesday – Saturday
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Visit howardgreenberg.com for more information.