NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO SHOWCASE
Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949-1955
Black & White Photographs Depicting Post-War New York City Life
On View July 1 ̶ December 4, 2016
New York, NY, June 2, 2016 – On view at the New-York Historical Society beginning July 1, 2016, Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949-1955 will showcase 45 photographs of everyday New Yorkers and major New York City sites taken during a transformative period in history. This new exhibition highlighting the early works of the Bronx-born photographer captures the day-to-day life in the city’s post-World War II urban environment that has since largely disappeared. Notable landmarks depicted include the Empire State Building, the original Pennsylvania Station before it was demolished, and the Headquarters of the United Nations when it was a new addition to the city’s skyline, as well as iconic locations such as subway stations, the river piers, Central Park, and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
“Larry Silver’s work opens a window into a New York City that no longer exists,” said Marilyn Satin Kushner, Curator and Head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections at the New-York Historical Society. “His photographs convey the spirit of the post-World War II era, of a city rebuilding after years at war and transforming into the metropolis we know today. Though they were taken decades ago, there is also something familiar in the faces Silver captured. It’s an energy New Yorkers will recognize.”
The images on display in Photographs by Larry Silver, 1949-1955 capture vignettes of daily life in New York City, many of them through children’s experiences: two boys playing in the debris of a construction site as the new United Nations building towers in the background, an altercation on the subway between two elderly women, children eagerly peering at a toy shop window display, a soldier waiting for his train at Grand Central Terminal, a young boy stricken with polio climbing to the top of a playground slide, and an apartment building punctuated by laundry hanging out on clotheslines. The city’s architecture is presented as much as a protagonist as an endless playground for post-war children. The photographs also mark the point in the city’s history when the exodus to the suburbs was in full swing, as residents traded walk-ups on the East Side for walk-in closets on Long Island, moving away from the lingering threat of polio that loomed over city-dwelling children.
Born in the Bronx in 1934, Silver was drawn to photography at an early age. His mother bought him a Brownie camera for $5, and he turned his bedroom into a dark room and commandeered the apartment’s only bathroom to wash his prints. While attending the High School of Industrial Art in Midtown Manhattan, he was mentored by Lou Bernstein and other Photo League photographers who gathered at the Peerless Camera Store on East 44th Street in Manhattan. Through their influence, Silver’s pictorial style of photography transformed into a more documentary mode, and he would go on to win a scholarship to the Art Center School in Los Angeles. There he found acclaim and success documenting the body builders of Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, a place that reminded him of Coney Island back home.
Work eventually took Silver to Florida before he returned home to New York City in 1959, where he opened a photography studio and solidified his reputation as an advertising photographer through his work with clients such as American Express; Canon; IBM; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.; and Proctor & Gamble Co. His photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including Forbes, Life, and Time, and his work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the International Center of Photography, the Jewish Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut. Larry Silver’s photographs are held in the collections of museums nationwide including the New-York Historical Society; the Brooklyn Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society are made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural, and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. For more information, visit www.nyhistory.org.
Photo credit: Larry Silver. Children on United Nations Construction Pile, 1951. Gelatin silver print. Gift of William and Jeryl Silverstein. Collection of the New-York Historical Society