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Exhibit Exalts New York's Early Radical Photographers

In 1936, a bunch of young, idealistic photographers got together with a notion that they could provoke social reform through imagery. They turned their cameras mostly on the streets of New York — on shoemakers and street urchins and crowds at Coney Island.

Though you may not be familiar with the Photo League, as the group was called, you've likely seen the work of its photographers: Lewis Hine made iconic images of child labor and the construction of the Empire State Building, for example; and Dorothea Lange captured the famous Migrant Mother.

Steamfitter, 1920

Steamfitter, 1920 Lewis Hine/Howard Greenberg Gallery/The Jewish Museum hide caption

itoggle caption Lewis Hine/Howard Greenberg Gallery/The Jewish Museum

Many of the most noted mid-20th century photographers were members: Berenice Abbott, W. Eugene Smith, Ansel Adams, etc. After being blacklisted, the League was forced to disband in 1951 under pressure of the Second Red Scare. But today, the photographers are having a reunion in the form of a comprehensive exhibition. The Radical Camera is a collaboration between New York City's Jewish Museum and the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio.

Over the course of the League's 15-year existence, members saw the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II and finally the Red Scare. They captured moments of levity and of darkness, both private and public. Above all, the League fostered conversations and collaborations that, in many ways, would set the standards of documentary photography for decades to come.

  • Halloween, South Side, 1951
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    Halloween, South Side, 1951
    Marvin E. Newman/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • The Wishing Tree, 1937
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    The Wishing Tree, 1937
    Aaron Siskind/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Untitled (Tenements, New York), circa 1937
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    Untitled (Tenements, New York), circa 1937
    Consuelo Kanaga/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Untitled (Dancing School), 1938, from Harlem Document
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    Untitled (Dancing School), 1938, from Harlem Document
    Solomon Fabricant/The Jewish Museum,/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • D-Day Rescue, Omaha Beach, 1944
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    D-Day Rescue, Omaha Beach, 1944
    Walter Rosenblum/Columbus Museum of Art/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York, 1945
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    Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York, 1945
    Ida Wyman/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Easter Sunday, 1944
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    Easter Sunday, 1944
    Elizabeth Timberman/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Shoemaker's Lunch, 1944
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    Shoemaker's Lunch, 1944
    Bernard Cole/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Ideal Laundry, 1946
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    Ideal Laundry, 1946
    Arthur Leipzig/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Butterfly Boy, New York, 1949
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    Butterfly Boy, New York, 1949
    Jerome Liebling/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Boy Jumping into Hudson River, 1948
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    Boy Jumping into Hudson River, 1948
    Ruth Orkin/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn, 1950
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    Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn, 1950
    Arthur Leipzig/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum
  • Coney Island, circa 1947
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    Coney Island, circa 1947
    Sid Grossman/The Jewish Museum/Courtesy of The Jewish Museum

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The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951 opens Friday and will run through March.

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