Secret Lovers

“It was after midnight and jet black. One of those nights when the moon forgets to come out… but the sweethearts like that. I took my shoes off so as not to get sand in them and went walking in my stocking feet on the beach, being careful not to bump into couples. I wouldn’t want to disturb them for the world. Once in a while I would hear a giggle or a happy laugh, so I aimed my camera and took a picture in the dark using invisible light. It was so still. Once in a while there would be a flicker of a match lighting a cigarette. Love making is so exhausting… a happy kind of exhaustion… and a cigarette gives one a chance to rest up and hear the heartbeat of one’s partner….”, Weegee

Weegee, [Young man and woman embracing on the sand, Coney Island, Brooklyn], ca. 1943 (2042.1993)

“I walked nearer to the water’s edge and stopped to rest against a Life Guard Station look-out. I thought I heard a movement from above so I aimed my camera high and took a photo, thinking it was a couple who like to be exclusive and do their love making nearer the sky. When I developed the picture, I saw that the only occupant on the look-out had been a girl looking dreamily towards the Atlantic Ocean… What was she doing there alone among all the lovers….?”,  Weegee

Weegee, [Girl on lifeguard station, Coney Island, Brooklyn], ca. 1940 (136.1982)



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Sand Hogs of New York City

Carl Mydans, [Sand Hog, working under the East River, New York]1939 (190.2005)

New Yorkers are no stranger to train delays…weeknights, weekends; no time is exempt from rerouted or non-existent service. But who are the tireless workers who control the fate of our commute? Meet the Sandhogs, the faces behind the (re)construction of our city’s bridges and tunnels. In 1936 ground was broken for the construction of the Midtown Tunnel and in 1939 Carl Mydans captured these unsung heroes in action.

Carl Mydans, [Sand Hog, A hundred feet below the East River in NYC, calls out the number of inches of the “shove”]1939 (188.2005)

The sandhogs, the colloquial name given to these urban miners, have been plowing and excavating large portions of the city since 1872. The Queens-Midtown Tunnel Sandhogs were paid $11.50 to push and prod at each end of the tunnel–eventually plowing through to the center.

Carl Mydans, [Sand Hog tests cast iron plate in frame of  tunnel during construction under the East River, New York]1939 (200.2005)

Sandhogs, so named because of the soft sediment that they dig through, have one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Hundreds have died during the construction of the tunnels, bridges, and wells that keep the city functioning. Because projects often span decades, it isn’t rare to find multiple generations of one family working at the same site.

Carl Mydans, [Sand Hogs, building Mid-Town tunnel, New York], 1939 (201.2005)

According to the Local 147, the Sand Hog Union:Today we are busy on a number of projects – finishing the second stage of a vital new water tunnel – City Tunnel Number Three, extending the 7 line of the subway over to the far west side of Manhattan, connecting the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Station, and building a new filtration plant for the city’s water system in the Bronx. These are all projects vital to the city’s future and on each project we strive to work hard, efficiently and safely – as we always have. We are proud to be New York’s Sandhogs – the men who make New York work.”

Carl Mydans, [Sand Hogs working under East River, New York], 1939 (204.2005)

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Odamasa Store, Hiroshima


United States Strategic Bombing Survey, [Distorted steel-frame structure of Odamasa Store, Hiroshima], November 20, 1945 (2006.1.68)

On November 1945, merely three months after the United States detonated an atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, U.S. President Harry S. Truman sent 1,150 military personnel and civilians (photographers included) to assess, document, and record the extent of the destruction that the bomb had caused. The name of this operation and its team was the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. This board of experts had already assessed the damage of Anglo-American bombing on Nazi Germany, under the direction of Henry Stimson and ordered by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. The Japanese surveys came afterward, and had a separate section dedicated solely to the atomic bombs. The whole survey and accompanying documents on Japan was published in 1947.

The photograph above was taken at the first “Ground Zero,” term used to describe and circumscribe the perimeter of damage caused by the bomb in Hiroshima. It depicts a colossal fallen structure that could resemble–if we imagine it prior to disaster–a bridge, or–anachronistically–a communications tower. In fact, it is the distorted infrastructure–the steel skeleton–of the Odamasa store. The survey had originally categorized it as a theater.

The nature of the distortion allowed the survey to conclude that this building had had strong roofing, and sides made of materials such as wood sheathing or corrugated iron. The typical damage to a building of this type was “crushing and mass distortion of the structural frame away from the blast.”[1] The damage was aggravated by fire in some cases. This building sustained terrible damage especially when compared with the buildings made out of corrugated asbestos, which showed little distortion or damage.

The nature of the group of photographs to which this one belonged is one void of a human presence: in fact, the division responsible for this specific type of documentation was the Physical Damage Division (PDD), whose task was the analysis of the remaining buildings, infrastructure, and industrial left-overs in the area. The structures were organized and accordingly annotated in relation to their distance to the epicenter, or Ground Zero (denoted GZ) and moving outwardly, from GZ1000 to GZ7000+. The photograph was located at GZ2000.

Laura A. González, ICP-Bard 2014

[1] Barnett, Erin, and Philomena Mariana, eds., Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945. Göttingen, Germany: Steidl and New York: International Center of Photography, 2011.  pp. 82-83.

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“Hello Dear…” (55 Years Ago Today…)

Weegee, [Letter from Weegee in Los Angeles to Wilma Wilcox in New York], August 4, 1959

Hello Dear…
Got the last stuff, Thanks very much…
The script & the pictures are now at C.B.S. in New York.
for use as a daytime show.
I have to wait another week to take my driving test.
Say – about the middle of this month I
will fly back to New York.
Miss you both, you & New York.

(This post was created on July 10, 2012.)

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City as a Canvas

Ernst Haas, Graffiti, May 1974, (145.1976)

Joseph Rodriquez, Cindy, Spanish Harlem, 1988, (41.2002)

Charles H. Traub, Canarise, Brooklyn, 1988, (452.1991)

New York City has endured a rich history with graffiti as both a symbol of the city’s struggle with crime and poverty as well as a grand statement of self-expression for the artists involved. In the 1970’s, while faced with some of its most turbulent years, graffiti exploded onto almost every inch of New York City. Artists began “bombing” buildings and subway cars with signature tags using marker and spray paint. Becoming “all-city”, tagging their names in all five boroughs, was an ultimate goal among artists who sought to gain credibility. By the mid-seventies artists began creating “masterpieces” or large pieces of cohesive artwork on entire subway cars that required extensive planning and pre-made stencils. As artists developed their style, competition grew and every inch of the city became a canvas.

A long battle commenced in 1972 as Mayor John Lindsay sought to diminish the acts of vandalism throughout the city that continued for decades and across several administrations. Campaigns to control the graffiti problem sought to actively replace or paint over any artwork created, especially those found on subway cars. Increased police presence also strained the artist’s ability to create work without being caught and subsequently arrested for vandalism. By 1989 the last of graffiti bombed trains were replaced which accomanied an overall decrease in active street artists throughout the 1990’s.

The photographs above depict New Yorkers in the midst of the golden age of graffiti as well as its the aftermath in the 1980’s. Each of the photographs includes graffiti as a mere backdrop for the candid representations of their subjects. While graffiti is not at the forefront of these photographs they accurately capture New York City as a canvas for self-expression and defiance against authority.



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Reflections on Louis Faurer

Louis Faurer, New York, ca. 1949 (2013.99.27)

“My eyes search for people who are grateful for life, people who forgive and whose doubts have been removed, who understand the truth, whose enduring spirit is bathed by such piercing white light as to provide their present and future with hope.” – Louis Faurer, October 2, 1979

Louis Faurer, N.Y.C. , ca. 1949 (2013.99.35)

A sustained exploration of the people of New York is a task undertaken by many photographers and is approached in many different ways. Among those New York City photographers, Louis Faurer’s portraits stand out as influencing such greats as Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus. Faurer presents a delicate interjection of identity and perspective into the otherwise chaotic city streets.

Louis Faurer, Eddie, New York, 1949 (2013.99.28)

Fauer’s photographic subjects range from the bizarre, the glamorous, to the oblivious, but what lies beneath each image is a deep sense of empathy and compassion.  His images reveal traces of melancholy in scenes of otherwise iconic, and boisterous city life without imposing a defined narrative. He captures moments of pause amid the boistrous city that can represent a compasionate exchange.

Louis Faurer, [Times Square, New York], 1948 (2013.99.51)

Often images of Times Square meld into an overwhelming mix of bodies and neon lights, but Louis Faurer’s compositions introduce you to individuals within the crowd, pausing to provide a moment of silence in an otherwise deafening barrage of city life.

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“Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe”

Weegee, Jet Man Flying Over Unisphere (distortion), ca. 1964 (13149.1993)

This year marks the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the 1964/1965 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Running in two six-month segments from April through October in 1964 and 1965, it attracted approximately 51 million visitors. With the official theme of “Peace through Understanding,” the fair was a showcase of technological innovation and a vision for the future.

Alfred Gescheidt, I.B.M. Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1964 (374.1984)

Notable exhibitions included the IBM Pavilion with its hydraulic grandstand or “People Wall” that lifted spectators into an egg-shaped theater to view a film on computer logic.  Simultaneously on a lower level, there were demonstrations of the latest and greatest in technological advances such as the handwriting recognition machine, at which IBM promised, “you will be amazed!”

Weegee, [Handwriting Analysis, IBM Electronic Machine, Only 50¢, You Will Be Amazed], 1964 (17838.1993)


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