If I was alive then, this is a club it would have been a privilege to be a member of.
The Photo League of New York was a group of photographers, students, pros, enthusiasts, teachers, who apparently had an amazing bond of learning, exhibiting, kibbutzing, and generally sharing a love for photography.
What was the icing on this cake was the rebuilding of NYC, and the communities within. For those that crave the intensity and reality of the human condition, the new canvas was presenting itself to be captured by these zealous image makers.
Led by some of the best teachers and practitioners of the time, this group incorporated fun into the hanging out, with the addition of parties and scavenger hunts that became legendary.
Need a darkroom? They provided for the low membership fee of $5. per month.
And they respected the artists.
One of the more moving parts of this documentary, is the inclusion of Lewis Hine. He is most known for his images of child laborers, which helped change the labor laws in the country. By the time they caught up with him, he was destitute.
After setting up a photo competition where he would choose the winner, shortly before the end he passed away after surgery.
Over a year ago, the Jewish Museum of New York hosted an exhibition celebrating the Photo League of New York.
If you shoot on the street, you should have knowledge of this group and you can get it from the book The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 , and now the documentary is available to you.
I did a full download for $15.00 and wanted to watch it multiple times, but you can rent it for as little as $4.00.
Highly Recommended: Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League
OK, you get that I feel that the Photo League was amazing, and I wish something like that existed now.
Here is the official release for the documentary:
ORDINARY MIRACLES: THE PHOTO LEAGUE’S NEW YORK is a feature-length documentary film which tells the story of the rise and politically motivated fall of the Photo League, (1936–1951) which for fifteen years served as the center of the documentary movement in American photography at a time when the camera was held to be, in James Agee’s words, “the central instrument of our time.”
The Photo League’s membership roster reads like a Who’s Who of leading American and emigree photographers including Sid Grossman, Aaron Siskind, Jerome Liebling, Dan Weiner, Morris Engel Walter Rosenblum, Weegee, Lisette Model and W. Eugene Smith. Directly inspired by Lewis Hine and the photographers of the Farm Security Administration and with expert guidance from photographers Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott and Beaumont Newhall, the Photo League’s collective portrait of urban life during these turbulent years is comparable to the indelible record of rural America created by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. Many FSA photographers, including Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott and John Vachon were also active members of the Photo League.
ORDINARY MIRACLES is built around a handpicked selection culled from the hundreds of images made by approximately sixty individual League photographers, fashioned into sequences designed around various subjects of League focus (Harlem, the Lower East Side, children at play, Coney Island, WWII). The previously under-reported contribution of Photo League trained war correspondents and combat cameramen who served in all branches of the armed services during WWII is rectified in an exciting sequence devoted to the Photo League’s war. The rich and evocative soundtrack is a blend of contemporary and vintage music: The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Django Reinhardt, The Andrews Sisters, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins and Philip Glass.
ORDINARY MIRACLES, distributed by The Orchard, a pioneering independent music and video distribution company operating in more than 20 global markets, is available on iTunes.