Dear Seminarians: This is a quick note to welcome you to the course. We’ll be using this site throughout, so please have a look around.



Lewis Hine: “II Gioco Della Cavallina, New York” 1904


This photo displays a common scene during this time: children outside playing. It displays children doing what was just normal for them. Now, it is a rarity to see children outside unless accompanied by a cell phone or console. The world at this moment was a world not yet consumed by technology. When we still lacked the constant gratification that the touch of a button could give. A simpler time.

Ruth Orkin’s Boy Jumping Hudson River


Here we once again see Orkin’s style of taking photographs capturing not life as we dream it should or shouldn’t be but life as it is. We see a boy jumping from the roof of a building with broken windows into the Hudson river. A woman is sticking her head out the window and the people on the docks are watching him, there is a line on the roof with the next boy already preparing to jump after the one in the air. They have no knowledge of Orkin taking the photograph and because of this we can truly see what is happening. From a seemingly run down building we see children having a great time. By showing us what is Ruth Orkin shows her viewers the highs and lows of society exactly as they come.

Ruth Orkin’s Mother and Daughter, Penn Station New York City, 1947


In 1947 racism was still a major issue despite WWII having recently ended. However there is no trace of either in this photograph. Instead we see a black mother and daughter sitting and resting on top of a suitcase. The daughter looks tired and is resting her head on her slouching and equally weary looking mother. However neither of them seem to be aware of the camera despite the young girls facing the camera, the mother seems to be looking for someone and this captures the nature of the city’s longing. By capturing the sleepy girl and the tired mom who appears to be looking for the father of the girl in their natural environment without any poses or faked situations we can get a glimpse into  the lives of the lower classes through Orkin’s photos.

Diane Arbus’s “Norma and Gallo, members of a Brooklyn teen gang, N.Y.C., 1960.”


Here we see two members of a gang in Brooklyn; this image is hardly what comes to mind when one imagines gang members in NYC in 2016. They appear well dressed, well kept and happy; no signs of violence or poverty plagues their image. This photograph reminds us that gangs are’t merely organized criminal groups, but also social circles that have existed in a niche for generations. From looking at these two teenagers our first impression appears to be a warm couple; only the juxtaposition of the photos title gives away their identity.

Diane Arbus: “Boy above a crowd, N.Y.C., 1957”


This photograph shows a busy crowd in New York broken by a small child standing out, looking at the viewer.  Due to the time period of the late 1950’s, the symbolism of this picture is indicative of the Cold War social tensions and the stark ideologies of the world that make little sense to a child lost in a sea of adult values. NYC being a hub of capitalism and information, a symbol of the American way of life, becomes an important setting in the context of the Cold War, especially because it would have  been a major target in the event of a nuclear altercation between the United States and Russia. The child’s gaze appears to be casting a judgment about society on an intuitive level.

Alfred Stieglitz – “Winter — Fifth Avenue,” 1893


This photograph depicts a carriage driver continuing his work amidst a strong snowstorm on February 22, 1893. The hoof prints and wheel trails left in the snow show that this driver is one of many who had made their way down Fifth Avenue during this storm. It gave me a sense of resilience and I felt the strength of the city. The wind is blowing so hard that you can see that the snow is traveling almost horizontally, yet there is still life and there is still movement along Fifth Avenue. It also shows another less beautiful side of the city. Fifth Avenue is a very popular shopping district, and I pass by many luxurious stores along Fifth Avenue each Sunday on my way to church. However, that same avenue could also look blurry and cold as seen in this photograph. New York City has many different faces, and they may not all be visible at the same time.

Lewis Hine: Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930

First, this picture shows one major side of New York: the numerous buildings that inhabit it. Each building pictured here is completely different from the one next to it and for me, it is just pleasant to look at. Second, on the men sitting on the beam are profound examples of the labor put into not only the Empire State Building, but the many other tall buildings in the city. In short, this picture gives the viewer a better appreciation of the work that went into making the city as it is now. Construction of Empire State Building

Lewis Hine: Beggar New York City, 1915


This captivating photo by Lewis Hine highlights the very real problem of homelessness and wealth gap in New York City. Even a hundred years ago, these problems existed, and Lewis Hine does a proper job in capturing an aspect of the city that many ignored and still do to this day. This photo is worth discussing because it addresses an issue that many people fail to take a side on. Many times we look at a homeless person and conflicting thoughts run through our minds, such as assumptions about the person’s character, but in reality we don’t know anything about them. I think it will be interesting to see other people’s opinions on how and if we should be helping the homeless.

Alfred Stieglitz – Old and New New York, 1910


This photograph shows the construction of the Vanderbilt Hotel. It portrays the constantly-changing New York landscape. There is a clear difference between the average, 4-story apartments along Park Avenue and the structure that will soon be the hotel. This photograph is important because it represents the increase in height of our city’s skyline over time. Walking down this same avenue today, that building does not look as big as it does here. Every other building in the vicinity is the same height, and one would never think that 4 Park Avenue once stood out among the rest.

Bruce Davidson- Time of Change: Civil Rights, 1962-“A woman in the back of a paddy wagon.”

USA. New York. New York City. 1962. A woman in the back of a paddy wagon.
USA. New York. New York City. 1962. A woman in the back of a paddy wagon.

Bruce Davidson shows a protest in New York City during the Civil Rights Movement. This photo shows how an African American woman was arrested when she wanted to eat in a restaurant that was segregated. She is protesting with her sign that if Khrushchev, a Soviet Union politician, can eat in that restaurant, then why can’t she? This sign is interesting because if the restaurant would serve food to someone from Soviet Union, especially during the cold war, why wouldn’t it also serve an African American woman? Davidson is showing his protest for the end of segregation and equality for all, especially in a city full of freedom of expression.