Dina Kantor is a photographer and teacher based in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2007, and her BA in journalism and studio arts from the University of Minnesota. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and is included in the permanent collections of The Jewish Museum in New York, the Portland Art Museum and the Southeast Museum of Photography. Her work was included in Humble Arts Foundations’ The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography in 2009. In 2007, she was named to Heeb Magazine’s Heeb 100 list, as well as being included in PDN’s Photo Annual. She has received grants from the Kansas Humanities Council, the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Finlandia Foundation National, and is currently being sponsored by Blue Earth Alliance. Currently, Dina teaches at The School of Visual Arts, Adelphi University and Nassau Community College.
Exhibition on view:
December 22–June 30, 2012
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY
The politics of desire, in public and private, and the search for national, ethnic, and sexual identities are investigated throughout Composed, a permanent exhibition at The Jewish Museum. The show features seven photo-based contemporary artists. Using conventional forms of photography including, portraiture, photojournalism, and online profile pictures, the artists illuminate the complex identities of a wide range of characters, emphasizing stereotypes, in order to obscure individual differences.
A game of hopscotch. A toothpaste ad. Filthy slums. This, for better or worse, was New York life in the 1930s. Many looked but few saw until the Photo League—a pioneering group of young, idealistic documentary photographers—captured that life with cameras.
The Manhattan-based League, which incorporated a school, darkroom, gallery and salon, was the first institution of its kind when it was founded in 1936 says Mason Klein, curator of fine arts at The Jewish Museum, which is currently presenting “The Radical Camera,” an exhibition in collaboration with the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. “There was nothing like the Photo League, where people could exhibit their work, students alongside their mentors, be taught a kind of history of photography and start understanding what the meaning of the photograph might be.”
Many of its founding members, including Sid Grossman, Sol Libsohn and Aaron Siskind, were first-generation Jewish immigrants with progressive, left-wing sensibilities. “They were very conscious of neighborhoods and communities,” says Klein. “I think it was very natural for Jews to form an egalitarian group and understand that the ordinary citizen of the urban scene was as much a valid subject as any for photography.”
The League thrived for fifteen years, generating projects like the Harlem Document, a collaborative effort by ten photographers to document the living conditions in poor black neighborhoods. It also fostered the careers of notable photographers such as Lisette Model, Weegee and Rosalie Gwathmey.
Despite its progressive agenda, the League’s mission was far from simplistic. Founder Grossman, who was just 23 when the group started, encouraged its members to look beyond documentary and question their relationship with the image. “Sid taught people to challenge their habitual ways of seeing the world,” says Klein. “A more poetic and metaphoric expression of how one saw the world was what Sid wanted from his students.” Under Grossman’s guidance, the League’s young muckrakers became artists.
By the 1940s, the League had turned away from its narrow political focus, capturing the squalor and splendor of everyday New York. The country was moving in the other direction, however, zeroing in on those suspected of harboring leftist sympathies. On December 5, 1947, the U.S. Attorney General blacklisted the League as “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive.” In 1951, it closed its doors forever.
The League’s reputation has never truly recovered, says Klein. “They were condemned to a kind of ideological shelving and, I think, unfairly treated by history. We’re trying to rectify that with this show, because they really were always about pushing the photograph and understanding it as art.”
The Radical Camera is on display at The Jewish Museum in New York through March 25.
Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.
Coney Island, 1947. © Sid Grossman
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951
Exhibition on view:
November 4, 2011–March 25, 2012
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave
New York, NY
The Jewish Museum of New York will be exhibiting The Radical Camera, a collection of photographs from the influential Photo League. Based in New York City, The Photo League consisted of young, politically progressive artists (many of whom were first generation Jewish Americans) that were shooting from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s. Interested in capturing their direct surroundings, League members documented the urban landscape of New York City during the turbulent times of the late Depression, World War II, and early Cold War eras. The League also created a collaborative center which offered affordable classes, darkroom facilities, and free lectures and social events for photographers.
Although they dismantled during the Red Scare of the McCarthy era, the legacy of The Photo League continues to influence documentary photographers. Aperture has published the work of several Photo League artists and those works include Lisette Model’s self-titled monograph and Paul Strand’s Paul Strand in Mexico. Aperture’s current Fall issue (204) includes an article by Mary Panzer about The Photo League’s legacy.
This Fall, many works by Aperture-featured photographers are being exhibited in New York City. Here is our run-down of this season’s must-see shows.
Gary Schneider: HandPrints, Johhanesburg at David Krut Projects. Made by hands’ sweat and heat interacting with film emulsion, these unusual portraits of friends and family will be on view September 8 – October 22, 2011.
Hellen van Meene at Yancey Richardson Gallery, September 8 – October 22, 2011, will exhibit the photographer’s distinct style of portraiture.
Vik Muniz at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., September 9 – October 15, 2011, focusing on paintings by the Brazilian artist.
Edward Steichen: The Last Printing at Danziger Projects, September 15 – October 29, 2011. Photographs made by George Tice, renowned photographer and Steichen’s last printer.
Social Media at Pace/MacGill, from September 16 – October 15, 2011, featuring work by Penelope Umbrico & others. Detailing the rise of social media in our visual culture, it includes Umbrico’s work Sunset Portraits From 9,623,557 Sunset Pictures which was meticulously culled from the photo-sharing website Flickr.
Simon Norfolk: Burke + Norfolk at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, September 14 – December 3, 2011, features a visual dialogue between nineteenth-century British photographer John Burke and contemporary photographer Simon Norfolk, centered in Afghanistan.
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936 – 1951 at The Jewish Museum from November 4 – March 25, 2011. Featuring work by Lisette Modell, Aaron Siskind, Weegee & many other photography legends.
There are also many gallery openings that are showing artists featured in our 2011 Benefit, Auction & SNAP! Party:
Sara Greenberger Rafferty at Rachel Uffner Gallery, September 7 – October 23, 2011.
Charlotte Dumas: Retrieved at Julie Saul Gallery, September 8 – October 15, 2011.