About The Exhibit

The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951

The Jewish Museum, NYC
November 04, 2011 – March 25, 2012

Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
April 19, 2012 – September 9, 2012

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA
October 11, 2012 – January 21, 2013

Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach, Florida
February 9, 2012 – April 21, 2013


“Artists Equipped with a Social Conscience” by Karen Rosenberg

The New York Times, December 23, 2011


Progressive in its politics and uncomprimising in its aesthetics, the league was the place to be if you had a hand-held 35 millimeter camera and a left-leaning social conscience — and particularly if you believed, to borrow a bit of contemporary parlance, that photography was fine art for the 99 percent.

“The Working Class Revealed” by Richard B. Woodward

The Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2011


“The Radical Camera” at the Jewish Museum, is an overdue history of an organization that had an impact on American art and journalism out of all proportion to its abbreviated life. … The show’s organizers, Mason Klein and Catherine Evans, have not ignored these contentious issues, nor have they allowed them to dominate the many marvelous photographs. The Jewish Museum’s installation charts the league’s gradual movement toward wider artistic latitude. As the membership was predominantly Jewish, it’s fitting for this gutsy New York institution to be hosting. … This New York story has deserved telling for a long time, and the Jewish Museum tells it well.

“Major League” by Vince Aletti

The New Yorker, Critic’s Notebook, December 19, 2011


“The Radical Camera,” a big, absorbing exhibition currently on view at the Jewish Museum, rounds up vintage prints by the men and women who made the League a magnet for Depression-era idealists and activists and, later, a target for McCarthyism. … Passionately engaged with the city and its poorest citizens, their work is brash, poignant, gritty, and opinionated. It’s also artful, often movingly so, but never at the expense of tough reality.

“Street Team: New York’s Photo League” by Suzanne Shaheen

The New Yorker Online, Photo Booth Blog, December 16, 2011


“15 Years That Changed Photography” by David Gonzalez

The New York Times Lens Blog, November 4, 2011


Sixty years ago this week, the Photo League fell victim to Cold War witch hunts and blacklists, closing its doors after 15 intense years of trailblazing – and sometimes hell-raising – documentary photography.  From unabashedly leftist roots, the group influenced a generation of photographers who transformed the documentary tradition, elevating it to heady aesthetic heights.

“Photo League” Interviews with Rebecca Lepkoff, Marvin Newman, Ida Wyman, and Vivian Cherry by Sarah Fishko

WNYC, Fishko Files, November 4, 2011


“The Radical Camera: The Photo League’s Left-Leaning Lens” Interviews with Mason Klein and Nina Rosenblum by Sam Lewis

WNET Thirteen, Metro Focus: News, Culture, and Life in and around New York, November 3, 2011


There are photographs we acknowledge for their aesthetic value. And there are images that shake us, provoke our emotions and compel us to question our roles in the world. Much of the visual language of modern photography can be traced back to a band of young photographers who captured New York … .

“Exhibit Exalts New York’s Early Radical Photographers” by Claire O’Neill

NPR, The Picture Show, November 3, 2011


The League fostered conversations and collaborations that, in many ways, would set the standards of documentary photography for decades to come.

“Photographers Taking It To the Streets” by Caroline Lagnado

The Jewish Week, November 8, 2011


[There are a] number of powerful images from the 1930s and ’40s in the new Jewish Museum show….[It’s] timing, hitting as it does when the Great Depression and its aftermath seem very much in the air because of the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping the nation, gives it an added jolt.

“The Radical Camera” by Sarah Coleman

PLANET Magazine, November 30, 2011


Perhaps no group used the [Leica] camera better in its early days than the New York Photo League, a ragtag band of urban photographers who were equally passionate about politics and aesthetics. In the 1930s and 40s, their documentation would provide a vibrant record of everyday life in New York City.

“Check It Out! Lens Department” by Billy Heller

New York Post, Hot Picks


“The Big Apple in Glorious Black and White: Stunning Images Cast Spotlight on New York City in 1940s” by Mark Duell

Daily Mail Online, November 2, 2011


“‘Radical Camera’ at Jewish Museum Shines Light on Documentary Photography” by Amy Zimmer

DNAInfo.com Manhattan Local News, November 2, 2011


With images of workers striking and protesting bailouts to banks today, the show’s connection to current events isn’t lost on [Catherine] Evans. “Now it’s in color,” she said.

“NY Exhibit Pays Homage to Documentary Photographers” by Ellen Freilich

Reuters, November 1, 2011


Fall Preview 2011: Art [Featured subsequently as a Critics’ Pick online]

New York Magazine, August 21, 2011


[We’re anticipating The Jewish Museum’s “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951] Because this cooperative of men and women—among them Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Aaron Siskind, and Paul Strand—were like a nerd-cool Justice League, armed with cameras as weapons against rich guys and sentimentalists.


“Heavyweight Contenders” by Richard Lacayo

TIME Magazine, December 12, 2011


[Time magazine ranks The Radical Camera #4 (out of 6) on this year’s list of best holiday gift books]

Many of the best of this year’s gift books–and all those grouped here–grew out of museum collections or shows. They come with lucid scholarly essays, texts that do more than oooh and aaah over the pictures but don’t drag the art into the swamps of academy-speak … .


From 1936 to 1951, the members of the Photo League turned their cameras on the everyday life of New York City, which in their pictures is anything but ordinary. The subject of a new show at the Jewish Museum in New York, the League attracted Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, W. Eugene Smith and that redoubtable tough guy Weegee, among other now famous names. More than 150 of their pictures are richly reproduced at full-page size in this altogether terrific book.

“Up Against the Wall (Street)” by Eric Alterman

The Nation, Blog, December 2, 2011


On the book-giving front, I can get behind The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951, published by Yale, which is based on the exhibition now at the Jewish Museum and features photos 1936 to 1951, designed to stimulate a Communist revolution. It features photos by Margaret Bourke-White, Sid Grossman, Morris Engel, Lisette Model, Ruth Orkin, Walter Rosenblum, Aaron Siskind, W. Eugene Smith, and Weegee, among many others.