New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010


Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library
reviewer #1
Trude Fleischmann, Hedy Lamarr, 1930.

The New York Public Library has been collecting photographs since it’s earliest days, but there was not a separate division of photography until 1980. The current exhibition is a celebration of that anniversary, and is essentially a big piñata of a show, filled with tasty morsels from a collection of more than half a million photographs. The theme is portraiture, but the dynamic is a bit more institutional (on the excellent show web page you can indeed search the exhibition by donor). With no overarching theme then, the viewer is just urged to jump in grab and as many individual bon-bons as they can stand.

And bon-bons there are. Some familiar images to be sure, such as William Klein’s “Boy with a Pistol”, are still as provocative and disturbing as ever. There’s Cindy Sherman again, along with a Robert Frank 1950’s shot of Norman Mailer, drink in hand, Edward Steichen represented by a portrait of the young dandyish Shirley Burden, and Andre Kertesz with a portrait of Isamu Noguchi, curled up in a tatami mat holding a cat.

 by unidentified photographer.
Zaida Ben-Yusuf, “Grover Cleveland”, 1901

Two of the tastiest sweets on display were by relatively unknown photographers, both independent portrait photographers working in the early decades of the 20th century. Trude Fleishmann, a photographer known for her portraits of actors and intellectuals in 1920’s Vienna, is represented by a particularly sensuous portrait of 16 year old Hedy Lamarr. In a somewhat different vein, we see a portrait of President Grover Cleveland in 1901, sitting comfortably on the edge of a stream, quietly tying a fly to his fishing line. Seemingly a snapshot, but really a tribute to the portrait photography career of Zaida Ben-Yusuf, an immigrant milliner, who built a successful career photographing the rich and famous in New York. Access!

Although this show is too scattershot to warrant a special trip to the unfortunately named Schwarzman Building, it is certainly the right tonic for shaking the cobwebs from your brain after too many hours spent over dusty tomes in the Main Reading Room.

Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library

NY Public Library Schwarzman Building,
Fifth Ave & 42nd St.
Midtown         Map

917 275 6975

Thursday, September 30 to
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Hours: Mon, Thur-Sat, 11 to 6; Tues - Wed, 11 to 7:30