ORDINARY MIRACLES: THE PHOTO LEAGUE’S NEW YORK is a feature-length documentary film about the rise and politically-motivated demise of the Photo League (1936-1951) an influential organization of amateur and professional photographers which for fifteen years functioned as the heart and soul of the documentary movement in American photography—a tumultuous period during which the camera was held to be, in the words of James Agee, “the central instrument of our time.”
The Photo League’s membership roster reads like a Who’s Who of the foremost American and émigré photographers of the day, among them: Berenice Abbott, Lewis W. Hine, Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith, Weegee, Aaron Siskind, Sid Grossman, Dan Weiner, Lisette Model, Walter Rosenblum, Consuela Kanaga, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, and Jerome Liebling. Their collective portrait of urban life during a turbulent period in America is comparable to the indelible record of rural America created by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration (nearly all of whom, including Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Walcott and John Vachon, were also members of the Photo League.) The Photo League’s members were united in their belief in the transformative power of photography to effect social change during a turbulent era in American history.
Victimized by pressure from the FBI and by the McCarran-Wood Act of 1950, the Photo League was forced to disband the following year. But it’s influence advanced modern photography and continues to be felt today.
ORDINARY MIRACLES highlights a carefully curated selection from the thousands of images created by some sixty Photo League photographers, fashioned into sequences which focus on different neighborhoods and areas of New York City: the Lower East Side, Harlem, Times Square, the Bowery, Coney Island, and more. During World War II, Photo-League trained photographers and motion-picture cameramen served in all branches of the armed forces and in all theatres of the war, and their previously under-reported contribution to recording front-line combat as well as activities on the home-front, is rectified in an exciting sequence devoted to the League’s war. The film’s rich and evocative soundtrack skillfully blends contemporary and period music, and features The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters, Coleman Hawkins, and Phillip Glass.
ORDINARY MIRACLES, distributed by The Orchard, a pioneering independent music and video distribution company operating in more than 20 global markets, is available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and iTunes.