John Cohen, Family on Front Porch, Hazard, KY, 1959 -- Gelatin silver print, printed c.1959, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches -- Courtesy L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York
It’s hard to imagine in the age of Flickr and Instagram that it was once hard to find and view original photography. But even 50 years ago, it was rare for museums and galleries to dedicate much wall space to a medium that, back then, primarily flourished on the pages of news magazines.
In 1959, a young street photographer named Larry Siegel decided to work on changing the perception that photography wasn’t art. He converted a small storefront on East 10th Street in New York City into a gallery dedicated exclusively to showing photography.
Early patrons, who had not been used to seeing photography prints on display, didn’t quite know what to think.
“In those days, photographic prints were not well known,” Siegel recalls. “People would walk in, point to the wall, and ask, ‘What’s that?’ They thought I had cut the images out of a magazine.”
But the gallery closed just three years later, when Siegel couldn’t afford to keep it running, and largely vanished from memory.
But a new exhibition aims to renew the memory of Siegel’s gallery. “Image Gallery Redux: 1959-1962” opens Thursday at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and features work from Siegel and 21 of the 75 photographers who showed work there.
The exhibit includes early works of Winogrand, Leiter and other photographers who showed at the Image Gallery just as their careers were getting started.
The exhibit is on display until Feb. 15.