New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Only in New York: Photographs from LOOK magazine
R. Wayne Parsons

If you’ve been here long enough it’s a nostalgia trip; if not, it’s a history lesson of sorts. I am referring to “Only in New York: Photographs from Look Magazine,” an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. This moderately interesting show covers images appearing in the magazine from 1945 to the early 1960s, the heyday of magazine photojournalism. Then as now “New York” mostly means Manhattan; there are a few less intriguing photos of Brooklyn, but none of the other three boroughs.

Eclectic it is, with coverage of celebrities –- Salvador Dali, Rocky Graziano, Edith Piaf, Mike Todd to name a few –- night life both exclusive (the Stork Club, the Copacabana) and less so (the Palladium and Savoy ballrooms), fashion, Times Square, the subways, romance and so forth –- anything that the editors thought would sell magazines in Peoria.

The highlight of the exhibition is a series of 1947 photographs based on an advertising campaign for the Peter Pan bra manufacturer –- how’s “The secret’s in the circle” for an advertising slogan? The company hired a model with a pointy bra and a tight sweater as material for a large ad on the side of a building at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. The model, two artists and a photographer to record it all were hoisted on a scaffold several floors up where the artists painted a large image of the model in her pointy bra and tight sweater on the side of the building. Two additional photographers, one by the name of Stanley Kubrick, were on the ground to record the gawking crowds –- and gawk they did. If you don’t laugh at this photo essay you’re either in church or in the cemetery!

Speaking of Stanley Kubrick, he was a staff photographer at Look from 1945 to 1950 before he became a film director. The standout image of the exhibition, “Young Lovers”, bears his credit: just what the title says making out on a fire escape and photographed from above.

This is photography not as photography, but photography as document and narrative. Consistent with this emphasis is that the names of these artists are in a smaller font than those of the celebrities they report on.

A diversion if you’re in the neighborhood. One wishes the gallery lighting were better done.

Only in New York: Photographs from LOOK magazine

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave.
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212 534 1672

Thursday, December 10 to
Friday, April 16, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sun 10 to 5