André Kertész, Carrefour Blois

DECEMBER 19TH – JANUARY 9, 2021

New York, London, and Paris are among the most significant global cities that have helped define the modern world’s history and culture. Thankfully, the past of these cities has been preserved and chronicled by photographs that captured their development, allowing the medium of photography to become the most renowned way the world conceptualized and remember what these places represented. Ultimately, through the collective sum of individual images pieced together, these great cities’ charted their visual stories and displayed their unique historic personalities throughout the years.


NEW YORK


Berenice Abbott

Diane Arbus

Harry Benson

Elliott Erwitt

Andreas Feininger

Robert Frank

Louis Stettner

Brett Weston


LONDON


Harry Benson

Bill Brandt

Frank Horvat

Roger Mayne


PARIS



Brassaï 



Jean-Philippe Charbonnier


Robert Doisneau

Elliott Erwitt

André Kertész


Willy Ronis



Louis Stettner


Sabine Weiss

New York, London, and Paris are among the most significant global cities that have helped define the modern world’s history and culture. Thankfully, the past of these cities has been preserved and chronicled by photographs that captured their development, allowing the medium of photography to become the most renowned way the world conceptualized and remember what these places represented. Ultimately, through the collective sum of individual images pieced together, these great cities’ charted their visual stories and displayed their unique historic personalities throughout the years.

Signifying the importance of these cities, historian Mike Rappaport, author of “The Unruly City: London, Paris, and New York in the Age of Revolution” states, “They (the three cities) are at one and the same time places where individuals, social groups, and communities live, work, and socialize, but they are also centers of authority and power – economic, political, and social.”

The evolution of each metropolis has been unique. These cities formed their own aesthetics and spread ideas and styles that became ingrained in the collective imaginary; a skyscraper in New York, a Parisian Boulevard, and an industrial London road became signifiers of Western culture. Since photography as an art form is a study of light, these cities were presented within different properties of light; Parisian nightlife, whose glimmering street lighting at night resembles stars, is famously called the City of Lights. London and its pea soup fog is renowned for its soft, hazy half-light, where the mist from the Thames cloaks the city like a shroud. And finally, in New York, the light is clear and dynamic, beaming past buildings and the harbor alike, with a sensation that, much like the NYC skyline itself, anything is possible.

This exhibition presents these three cultural powerhouses through photographs from the 1920s through the 1960s. Everyday tropes like stairs, roads, bridges, and doorways as well as passersby, workers, children, gatherings of people, pets, animals, automobiles, bikes, trains, lettering, and signage, are essential components to the urban fabric of each city and yet are all the same but uniquely different. Individual actions captured capriciously with a photographer’s click can become metaphors for something further, the city’s endless stories collectively making up their own histories.

From the romantic undertones and enchanted passageways of Paris’s historic streets, which often lead to surreal and unexpected journeys, the City of Lights captivates our imaginations and emotions. With a photographic history that creates a mysterious and seductive narrative, Paris becomes a celebration for photographers’ senses with its architecture, romance, and enlightening portrait of the human experience. Documenting the city’s moving and picturesque landscape, André Kertész, Robert Doisneau, Brassai, and Sabine Weiss are some photographers who present Paris’ eternal atmospheric poetry. As Geoff Dyer writes, “Like the roads and passageways that also feature prominently in (Eugène Atget’s) photographic inventory of Paris, they lead us deeper into the picture even as they indicate a way out of and beyond it.”

In London’s streetscapes, we see boys playing football, billowing trains in the distance, and the scenery of the industrial revolution’s growing heart. London is a city where the industrialization and wealth created since the end of WW1 generated huge class distinctions. Life in industrial cities, characterized by hardship and toil, was challenging but, by the 1960s, gave rise to the working class’s hip, trendsetting culture. London held on to traditions while welcoming modern attitudes, which ultimately influenced the rest of the world. Photographs of Roger Mayne, Bill Brandt, and Harry Benson explore the British metropolis as it mirrored the evolution of the manufacturing society unfolding into modernity.

“Brandt’s genius, and the source of his uniqueness, is that he combined the three main trends of photography of his age into a symbiotic fusion. Yes, he was a documentary photographer, but he was also a pictorialist and a surrealist, and it is worth discussing these three attitudes to photography and how they were employed by him.” — Bill Jay, in Brandt, The Photography of Bill Brandt

The almost mythic allure of New York City’s skyscrapers and Broadway markers, its teeming streets where all classes of society blend, have helped define America’s energetic urban culture. As an emblem of the future, NYC grew into a unique urban environment that garnered popularity as the epitome of current affairs. In America, NYC has always taken on a larger than life persona – championed by its photography. Dynamic and promising, the prior capital of the US was a main gateway into the new world from Europe and thus, represented the American way of living. In NYC, it seemed that possibilities were limitless, being the most dynamic of the three cities and most willing to embrace the future. Photographers Elliott Erwitt, Helen Levitt, Andreas Feininger, Berenice Abbott, and Diane Arbus in this exhibition present NYC as the iconic, urban jungle and melting pot of America, as the visual panoply of Western ideals in the 20th century.

“(Berenice Abbott) became a witness to the city’s changing appearance, and her photographs capture its dimensions in the windows of stores or the facades of buildings.” — The Abrams Encyclopedia of Photography

At last, the New York, London, Paris exhibition addresses the challenge photographers and their work face in recording the lasting impressions of three of the world’s most famous cultural capitals. Like a jigsaw puzzle, where photographs serve as pieces of a grander final sweeping vision, each picture in this exhibition has its own unique merits. Creating an understanding of history, of the particular attitudes of a place and a society that signify culture, each photograph in this exhibition expands on the attributes of their cities and, like the finished puzzle, help create an indelible visual legacy.