Today, we will have a learning experience. We are going to explore the full museum and Helen Levitt Photos and the full musuem.
Levitt's pictures report no unusual happenings; most of them show the games of children, the errands and conversations of the middle-aged, and the observant waiting of the old. What is remarkable about the photographs is that these immemorially routine acts of life, practiced everywhere and always, are revealed as being full of grace, drama, humor, pathos, and surprise, and also that they are filled with the qualities of art, as though the street were a stage, and its people were all actors and actresses, mimes, orators, and dancers.
Some might look at these photographs today, and, recognizing the high art in them, wonder what has happened to the quality of common life. The question suggests that Levitt's pictures are an objective record of how things were in New York's neighborhoods in the 1940's.
This is one possible explanation. Perhaps the children have forgotten how to pretend with style, and the women how to gossip and console, and the old how to oversee. Alternatively, perhaps the world that these pictures document never existed at all, except in the private vision of Helen Levitt, whose sense of the truth discovered those thin slices of fact that, laid together, create fantasy.
- John Szarkowsk
a. Describe the colors, lines, shapes, texture, and space you see in the image.
b. What do you notice first in this picture? Where is your eye led?
c. How many faces do you see?
d. What are the people wearing? How are they posed?
e. Where are their hands resting?
f. Are you looking up or down at the people in the image?
g. When was this picture made?
Level II: (begin to analyze and interpret)
In your opinion,
a. What are the people in the photograph looking at?
b. What are the expressions on their faces?
c. What are they thinking?
d. At what time of day might the photograph have been taken?
e. Where was the photograph taken?
f. What do you think they are doing?
Level III: (connect the image to historical context)
Based on what you know about the 1930s,
a. Who are the people in the photograph?
b. What message do you think the photographer was trying to convey?
c. What is the situation of the people depicted? Point out some visual elements in the photograph that tell you about their situation.
d. If possible, how would you help the people in this photograph?
e. Might a photograph of this nature be made today? Why or why not?
f. What alternative title would you give this photograph?
Analyze a photo frrom Each Era
Gilded Age 1877-1900
The growth of industry and a wave of immigrants marked this period in American history. The production of iron and steel rose dramatically and western resources like lumber, gold, and silver increased the demand for improved transportation. Railroad development boomed as trains moved goods from the resource-rich West to the East. Steel and oil were in great demand. All this industry produced a lot of wealth for a number of businessmen like John D. Rockefeller (in oil) and Andrew Carnegie (in steel), known as robber barons (people who got rich through ruthless business deals). The Gilded Age gets its name from the many great fortunes created during this period and the way of life this wealth supported.
Progressive Era 1900-1919
In the 1890s, the belief that Americans should avoid getting involved with other countries was slowly fading. Because of its rapid economic and social growth, the U.S. had become a major world power. So when Cuban rebels began a violent revolution against Spanish rule in 1895, and a mysterious explosion sunk the U.S.S. Maine in the Havana harbor, the U.S. entered into what diplomat John Hay called "a splendid little war" with Spain. Although the Spanish-American War ended relatively soon, issues over ownership of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the Hawaiian islands also had to be resolved.
Foreign affairs (relationships with other countries) took up a great deal of President Woodrow Wilson's attention. In Europe, there was the outbreak of World War I, also known as the Great War, in 1914, and in Mexico, there was the Mexican Revolution. Although at first Americans did not want to get involved, they supported the Allies in their fight against the Central Powers. Finally, the U.S. entered the war in 1917. The war concluded in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. The Allied Powers of the U.S., Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Russia, France, Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro had been victorious.
Back at home, young people were tired of the war. Women exercised their newly found freedom (having won the right to vote in 1920) and many whites took up an interest in African American culture. Harlem nightclubs thrived, spotlighting numerous artists such as jazz musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
October 29, 1929, was a dark day in history. "Black Tuesday" is the day that the stock market crashed, officially setting off the Great Depression. Unemployment skyrocketed--a quarter of the workforce was without jobs by 1933 and many people became homeless. President Herbert Hoover attempted to handle the crisis but he was unable to improve the situation. In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and he promised a "New Deal" for the American people. Congress created The Works Progress Administration (WPA) which offered work relief for thousands of people