Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York
Directed by: Nina Rosenblum and Daniel Allentuck
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Spring 2012 sneak preview! Q&A with directors Nina Rosenblum and Daniel Allentuck
ORDINARY MIRACLES: THE PHOTO LEAGUE’S NEW YORK, tells the story of The Photo League, which was born out of the hopeful political ferment of the thirties and expired fifteen years later, a victim of Truman-era loyalty purges and the McCarren Act.
Conceived and run by two dropouts from New York’s City College, Sol Libsohn and Sid Grossman, the Photo League, a cooperative which depended entirely on membership dues, published a bulletin, mounted exhibitions and operated a school with a curriculum devised by Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand. The school’s principal instructor, Sid Grossman, was a charismatic and at times overbearing figure. Filling a void left by genteel but vapid amateur camera clubs, the Photo League attracted the likes of Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Aaron Siskind Lewis Hine, Weegee and emigre members Lisette Model, Lotte Jacobi and Marion Palfi. Featured speakers included Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson. In-depth group projects focusing on New York’s ethnic neighborhoods culminating in the “Harlem Document” were the League’s main focus.
The film combines interviews with a dozen surviving League members with a spellbinding musical score. Campbell Scott’s superb narration and 350 unforgettable images paint a unique and unexpected portrait of New York City from the 1939 World’s Fair to Be-Bop and Abstract Expressionism. No other organization, with the exception of the Farm Security Administration (most of whose members also belonged to the Photo League), was more important-or had a more lasting influence on American photography. A thought-provoking tribute.NR, 78 Minutes