Beginning in the 1930s, Jewish photographers established a new mode of American street photography, the origins of what would be called the New York School. Mostly working-class young people, some not yet out of high school, they produced a striking cultural efflorescence. Many were attracted by progressive politics. These neophytes rejected standard representations of New York as a vertical, inhumanly scaled Gotham. Despite their eagerness to join a burgeoning field of photography, they declined to portray city residents as ciphers defined by victimization. Instead they tried to capture the evanescent matrix of human interactions at street level. They set out to remake photography and the way New Yorkers were perceived. This lecture explores their images of the city and how they taught us to see in a new way.
Deborah Dash Moore is the Frederick C. L. Huetwell Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where she also directs the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. She is the author of To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L. A. (1994); a coauthor of Cityscapes: A History of New York in Images (2001); and a coeditor of the award-winning Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (1997). Her most recent books include GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation (2004) and the edited works American Jewish Identity Politics(2008) and Gender and Jewish History (2010).