2 mins to read

New York: A short photographic history

The greatest city of the 20th century has been captured in tales, films, literature, shows and, above all, photographs.

John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 21 Dec 2013

New York, Portrait of City by Reuel Golden
Tashcen Press
RRP $20

As the greatest city of the 20th century, New York has become the era's symbol and this has been captured in tales, films, literature, shows and, above all, photographs.

New York, Portrait of City presents the epic story of New York with iconic, atmospheric photographs, from the mid-19th century through to the present day.

Supplementing this collection of images are five short chapters which cover the city's history. There is its emergence in the second half of the 19th century as one of the great metropolitan centres, then the boom town period of mid-20th century, which saw the erection of many of its iconic buildings – the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Centre through to its late 20th century importance and the devastation of 9/11.

The book originally came out in a large format version but this new edition manages to cram the 600 pages of the original in to just 200. The big book would have set you back close to $100 but the small version is only a fifth as much.

New York’s remarkable rise, reinvention and growth is not just the tale of a city, but the story of a nation, The various stages of the city’s development is shown from the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island; from the slums of the Lower East Side to the magnificent art deco skyscrapers.

The urban beach of Coney Island and the sleaze of Times Square; the vistas of Central Park and the crowds on 5th Avenue. The streets, the sidewalks, the chaos, the energy, the ethnic diversity, the culture, the fashion, the architecture, the rich and the poor the angst and the celebrations of the place are all there.

The images also capture significant moments in both the history of the city and US such as people reading the paper announcing the end of World War II. The occasional famous person is shown – Woody Allen playing in a bar in the1970s but for the most part it is ordinary New Yorkers and the city’s streets that are recorded.

The twin towers disaster is discretely captured in a photograph of a casual group of people several kilometers away in Brooklyn with the clouds of smoke and debris seen in the distance.

Along with the great photographs there are a set of images of the books, films and shows which have provided the soul of the city – King Kong, Manhattan Transfer, The Invisible Man, Last Exit To Brooklyn, West Side Story, Mean Streets and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

The writing and the photographs are more than just a tribute to the metropolis and its civic, social, and photographic heritage; it also provides a sense of the special nature of the city which sets it apart from the other large cities of the world.

The book features hundreds of images, sourced from dozens of archives and private collections – many never before published – and the work of more than 150 celebrated photographers, including: Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Esther Bubley, , Allen Ginsberg, Andreas Feininger, Larry Fink, Allan Tannenbaum, Helen Levitt, Eugene de Salignac, Ruth Orkin, Bruce Davidson and Keizo Kitajima.

John Daly-Peoples
Sat, 21 Dec 2013
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New York: A short photographic history