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Sid Grossman and 1940s’ New York


The Howard Greenberg Gallery presents an original exhibition of the work of Sid Grossman (1913–1955). Relatively little known in France, this New York photographer exerted considerable influence on street photographers in the 1960s. The exhibition focuses on the images Grossman made in New York, in the southern United States, and in Central America roughly between 1939 and 1948. The photos on view are beautiful, vintage black-and-white prints, some in warm tones.

Sid Grossman’s photographs show New York in the 1940s, affording the viewers the usual pleasures of street photography: they elicit laughter with an anecdote and spark curiosity with a period document. Some images are meticulously composed, emanating calm like classical paintings, while others possess a different and unexpected freshness. There is also a sense of elation in this shaky way of taking photographs. Sid Grossman doesn’t shy from the blurred image, crude framing, and technical errors—things that a contemporary spectator is well accustomed to, but which were at odds with the approach of his successors in the 1960s.

The exhibition is punctuated by a display devoted to the Photo League, which digresses into a discussion of Sid Grossman’s social engagement and political convictions; what really interested him were people. His career came to a sudden end in 1949 when he was accused of Communist sympathies; his reputation was tarnished and he never exhibited again in his lifetime. He left New York for Provincetown and continued to photograph until his premature death at age 42. His biography is a glimpse into another history of photography—a history that, rather than being a succession of technical developments and aesthetic revolutions, is eminently political and marked by social concerns.

Hugo Fortin

Hugo Fortin is a photography critic based in New York.

Sid Grossman
January 12 to February 11, 2017
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street
New York

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