Ben Shahn's New York: The Photography of Modern Times
by Deborah Martin Kao
ISBN 0300083254 (0-300-08325-4)
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Softcover, Huam, 2000
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Book summary: Ben Shahn, renowned painter, muralist, and graphic artist, was also a talented photographer who made documentary street photographs in New York City in the early 1930s. This book is the first to focus on his compelling New York images, showing how he used a camera to comment on many social issues of his day. As a political activist Shahn became interested in newspaper photography as source material for some of his paintings and satires. Soon he was engaged in street photography himself, documenting the working-class and immigrant populations and providing a poignant record of unemployment and poverty during the Depression years. The book considers the immediate social history of Shahn's New York photographs and analyses how his leftist politics and his interest in news photographs and film affected his photographic aesthetic. The authors assert the importance of analysing Shahn's paintings and photographs together, explaining why the connections between the two have been ignored until now. The book reproduces not only Shahn's New York photographs but also his related paintings, prints, and drawings, and an appendix presents documents that speak of the pervasive impact of his photographic work. The book accompanies an exhibition at the Arthur Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, from 5 February to 30 April; the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., from 10 June to 27 August; the Grey Art Gallery, New York University, from 14 October to 27 January 2001; and the David and Alfred Smart Museum, University of Chicago, from 19 April to 17 June 2001.
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