Photo Play

The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 offers a comprehensive look at the Photo League, a group of politically engaged street photographers who captured city life from the end of the Great Depression to the start of the Cold War. The design of this exhibit sought to recapitulate the disorientation and discovery experienced by the League photographers as they wandered New York City to document its spirit and people. A syncopated series of free standing walls allows glimpses of the unfolding exhibition along an agitated and almost maze like path of exploration. Featuring more than 140 works by some of the  most noted 20th-century photographers, including Berenice Abbott, Sid Grossman, Lisette Model, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, and Weegee. In 1936 a group of young, idealistic photographers, most of them Jewish, first-generation Americans, formed an organization in Manhattan called the Photo League. Their solidarity centered on a belief in the expressive power of the documentary photograph and the gritty realities of urban life. Leaguers focused on New York, and this meant looking closely at ordinary people. That impulse spurred the group to explore neighborhoods, street by street, camera at the ready.