The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

A Labor of Love
Leonard Freed
The Italians
Photo by Leonard Freed . Source:
Leonard Freed, "A wedding in Little Italy" 1956

For a photographer who called his relationship with Italy a “love story” and made more than forty-five trips there, the exhibition, Leonard Freed: The Italians, first published as a book in 2011, is a fitting tribute to his love of that country. The show reflects his passion for Italy and its people, as well as his first exposure to things Italian — New York’s Little Italy.

Now being shown at the Leica Gallery the photographs convey the joys of childhood, love, marriage – and the starring role that family and food play in the daily lives of Italians. Thirteen pictures were taken in New York City’s Little Italy in 1955; fifty-two others, photographed between 1956 and 2002, cover Italy from Florence to Sicily. All visibly demonstrate Freed’s mastery of his craft -– the superb prints simply reinforcing it. You get a sense of Italian life from a perspective not readily found elsewhere.

Photo by Leonard Freed . Source:
Leonard Freed, "Italy, Rome" 1958

I particularly liked the childish joy of “St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, 1958,” which shows two priests having a snowball fight. In another image (“Naples, 1956”) a businessman is standing on a busy street with two suitcases and a woman on a balcony above him is wearing a wedding dress. What’s the story there? Well, there’s no mystery in another 1956 image of a jeweler’s hand grasping a string of pearls in a Roman store window with street traffic reflected in it. There’s a slice of life in Little Italy perfectly rendered in “New York, 1955” – six tough guys in double-breasted suits talking among themselves with wives/girlfriends in the background. In “Sicily 1975,” Freed captures a man pushing a wagon with a large fish on top; the man’s feet are in mid air.

Photo by Leonard Freed . Source:
Leonard Freed, "Naples" 1956

The strength of this work isn’t a surprise – after all Freed’s talents had been recognized early in his career by none other than Edward Steichen, director of the Museum of Modern Art. Steichen told him he was one of the three best emerging photographers he had met and purchased three of his pictures for MoMA. In 1967, Cornell Capa chose Freed to be one of the five original “concerned photographers,” a label that clearly fit Freed’s humanistic sensibilities.

An artist with a photojournalistic style, Freed covered the Civil Rights movement as a freelancer from 1963-64 and literally followed in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps, documenting his march from Alabama to Washington, D.C. Freed also published a number of monographs including German Jews Today (1965), Black in White America (1967), Made in Germany (1970), and Police Work (1980), among other publications.

Photo by Leonard Freed . Source:
Leonard Freed, "New York" 1955

View The Italians at a leisurely pace to make sure you won’t miss any details or the artist’s love for his subject.

Leonard Freed
The Italians

Leica Gallery
670 Broadway 5th Fl
Lower Manhattan - West         Map

212 777 3051

Friday, June 13 to
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Hours: Tues-Fri 12 to 6, Sat 12 to 5

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