Exhibition: ‘Portraits of New York: Photographs from the MoMA’ at La Casa Encendida, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 27th March – 14th June, 2009

Curator: Sarah Hermanson Meister, associate curator of MoMA’s Department of Photography


Many thankx to La Casa Encendida for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.



Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street
Platinum palladium print



Wall Street is a platinum palladium print photograph by the American photographer Paul Strand taken in 1915. There are currently only two vintage prints of this photograph with one at the Whitney Museum of American Art (printed posthumously) and the other, along with negatives, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This photograph was included in Paul Strand, circa 1916, an exhibition of photographs that exemplify his push toward modernism.

It depicts a scene of everyday life in Manhattan’s Financial District. Workers are seen walking past the J.P. Morgan & Co. building in New York City on the famous Wall Street, of which the photograph takes its name. The photograph is famous for its reliance on the sharpness and contrast of the shapes and angles, created by the building and the workers, that lead to its abstraction. This photograph is considered to be one of Strand’s most famous works and an example of his change from Pictorialism to straight photography. Strand moved from the posed to portraying the purity of the subjects. It is one of several images that stand as marks of the turn to modernism in photography. …



This photograph depicts the J.P. Morgan building in New York City. Strand photographed “people hurrying to work past the banking building” situated on Wall Street, from which the photo takes its name. the subject depicted is a real-life subject without manipulation. The depiction of the real nature of the medium and the subject is an example of straight photography. There is no focal point, with the lines converging off of the frame of the image. The financial building take majority of the frame. Emphasis is placed on the strong shapes created by the architecture of the building. The workers are included in the image, but are faceless and are trumped in size by the massive square shapes from the building they walk past. Also, the workers are captured in motion which on film makes them appear blurry. This aesthetic that Strand creates in Wall Street is his break toward the modern, the straight photography, demonstrating that Pictorialism is no longer part of his aesthetic. Strand captured the building with clean, sharp lines. The building is covered in the high contrast, chiaroscuro. It is heavily in the shadows, but still creates an overwhelming presence over the people that walk past it. These people are also shrouded in the contrast made evident with the clean lines and black and white nature of his photos and photography as a medium. The people jump from their places, being the dark figures in the light of the sun that beams in from the left of the frame.

Strand fills the image with his recognisable aesthetic. The photo is platinum print, one of the materials frequently used by photographers of the time. Strand was unique in how he printed his photos. As stated on the George Eastman House website section Notes on Photography, Strand would make large prints from small negatives. He also left them in their matte condition that was inherent with platinum print. With his printing techniques, he “added a richness to the image.” As with the time, the photo is entirely black and white. There is a heavy contrast with the black and white areas of the photo. Strand creates diagonal shapes that pull emphasis to subject of the building and away from the people.



Having taken Hine’s class at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, social change became important to Strand and appeared often in his art. As a pupil of Hine, Strand learned of the social aspect his work could have. With Wall Street, he sought to portray a social message. He captured the faceless people next to the looming financial building in order to give a warning. Strand shows “the recently built J.P. Morgan Co. building, whose huge, dark recesses dwarf the passersby with the imposing powers of uniformity and anonymity.” The people cannot escape the overwhelming power that this modern establishment will have on their future and the future of America. He warns us to not be the small people that look almost ant-like next to this building that has a massive amount of control over the American economy.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Ted Croner. 'Central Park South' 1947-48


Ted Croner (American, 1922–2005)
Central Park South
Silver gelatin print
10 15/16 x 13 3/4″ (27.8 x 34.9cm)
Gift of the photographer
Museum of Modern Art, New York



Ted Croner (1922-2005) was an American photographer, described as an influential member of the New York school of photography during the 1940s and 1950s. His images are said to represent the best example of this movement.

Born in Baltimore in 1922 and raised in North Carolina, Croner developed an interest in photography while in high school. He honed his skills while serving as an aerial photographer in World War II before settling in New York City in 1947. At the urging of fashion photographer Fernand Fonssagrives, he enrolled in Alexey Brodovitch’s class at The New School where he studied with Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and Lisette Model. During this period he produced many of his most memorable images including “Taxi, New York Night, 1947-48”, which appears on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 2006 album, Modern Times. Another of Croner’s photographs was used on the cover of Luna’s album Penthouse.

Croner also had a successful career as a fashion and commercial photographer – his work was published in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He also worked extensively with corporations such as Coca-Cola and Chase Manhattan Bank. Croner is best known for his haunting night images of New York City taken in the 1940s and 1950s. He was one of several important photographers who belonged to the New York school of photography.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Arthur Fellig (Weegee) 'Coney Island' 1940


Arthur Fellig (Weegee) (American, 1899-1968)
Coney Island
July 22, 1940
Silver gelatin print
10 5/16 x 13 11/16″ (26.2 x 34.8cm)
Anonymous gift
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2019 Weegee/ICP/Getty Images



Photographs from the MoMA, which will provide an in-depth look at an essential component of the MoMA’s assets: its photography collection. Curated by Sarah Hermanson Meister, associate curator of the museum’s department of photography, the exhibition offers an overview of the history of photography through the work of over 90 artists, with the iconic city as a backdrop. It includes some of the most prestigious names in photography, such as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walter Evans, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Cindy Sherman, Irving Penn and Alfred Stieglitz.

For Sarah Hermanson Meister, associate curator of the MoMA’s Department of Photography, “Portraits of New York amply reflects the history of synergies of this medium and of the Big Apple during a period of important transformations for both. The photographs generated by the restless and constant commitment of numerous photographers to the city of New York have played a fundamental role in determining how New Yorkers perceive the city and themselves. These photographs have also defined the city’s image in the world’s imagination.

[…] The urban landscape of the city is a combination of the old and the new in constant evolution, and these physical transformations are repeated in the demographic changes that have characterised the city since the 1880s, when massive waves of immigrants began to arrive. This same diversity can be seen in the photography of New York of the past four decades. Just as its architects are inspired and limited by surrounding structures and building codes, and just as its inhabitants learn and rub up against each other and previous generations, so too the photographers of New York transport the visual memory of a an extensive and extraordinary repertoire of images of the city. They take on the challenge of creating new works that go beyond traditions and respond to what is new in New York.”

The exhibition curator continues: “Throughout the 20th century, numerous artists have felt inspired by New York’s combination of glamour and rawness. The city – which acquired its modernity at the same pace as photography, and in an equally impetuous and undisciplined way – has always been a theme of particular vitality for photographers, both those who have visited the city and those who live in it. On one occasion, faced with the challenge of capturing the essence of New York with a camera, the photographer Berenice Abbott wondered, “How shall the two-dimensional print in black and white suggest the flux of activity of the metropolis, the interaction of human beings and solid architectural constructions, all impinging upon each other in time?” Each of the photographs reproduced here is a unique response to that question.

New York may not be the capital of the United States, but it prides itself on being the capital of the world. Its inhabitants are intimate strangers, its avenues are constantly teeming and its buildings are absolutely unmistakeable, though they are packed so close together that it is impossible to see just one. The New York subway runs twenty-four hours a day, which has earned it the sobriquet of “the city that never sleeps.” It is the model for Gotham City, the disturbing metropolis that Batman calls home, and a symbol of independence and a wellspring of opportunities in a wide variety of films, from Breakfast at Tiffany‘s to Working Girl. And this is just a sample of the captivating and abundant raw material that the city offers to artists, regardless of the medium in which they work. However, it is the convergence of photographers in this city – in this place that combines anonymity and community, with its local flavour and global ambitions – that has created the ideal setting for the development of modern photography.

Text from the La Casa Encendida website [Online] Cited 28/04/2009 no longer available online


Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' from the 'Brooklyn Gang' series 1959


Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled from the Brooklyn Gang series
Silver gelatin print
6 3/4 x 10″ (17.1 x 25.4cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2019 Magnum Photos, Inc. and Bruce Davidson



Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #21
Silver gelatin print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2″ (19.1 x 24.1cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2019 Cindy Sherman



Each of Sherman’s sixty-nine Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), presents a female heroine from a movie we feel we must have seen. Here, she is the pert young career girl in a trim new suit on her first day in the big city. Among the others are the luscious librarian (#13), the chic starlet at her seaside hideaway (#7), the ingenue setting out on life’s journey (#48), and the tough but vulnerable film noir idol (#54). To make the pictures, Sherman herself played all of the roles or, more precisely, played all of the actresses playing all of the roles. In other words, the series is a fiction about a fiction, a deft encapsulation of the image of femininity that, through the movies, took hold of the collective imagination in postwar America – the period of Sherman’s youth, and the crucible of our contemporary culture.

In fact, only a handful of the Untitled Film Stills are modelled directly on particular roles in actual movies, let alone on individual stills of the sort that the studios distribute to publicise their films. All the others are inventive allusions to generic types, and so our sure sense of recognition is all the more telling. It tells us that, knowingly or not, we have absorbed the movie culture that Sherman invites us to examine as a powerful force in our lives.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 295.


Diane Arbus. 'Woman with Veil on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C' 1968


Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Woman with Veil on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C
Silver gelatin print
Museum of Modern Art, New York


Berenice Abbott. 'Night View, New York City' 1932


Berenice Abbott (American, 1891-1991)
Night View, New York City (New York at Night)
Silver gelatin print
12 7/8 x 10 9/16″ (32.7 x 26.9cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2019 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics



La Casa Encendida
Ronda Valencia, 2 28012 Madrid

Opening hours:
La Casa Encendida is open from Monday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm every day of the year except national and Community of Madrid holidays

La Casa Encendida website


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2 Responses to “Exhibition: ‘Portraits of New York: Photographs from the MoMA’ at La Casa Encendida, Madrid”

  1. May 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Nice info,
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. May 2, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Wow. The Coney Island picture is fascinating. Thanks for posting those!

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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