Saturday, 17 September 2011

Charles W. Cushman: New York City

Photo © Charles W. Cushman

I don't know why The Daily Mail, as a British newspaper would feature an extensive gallery of New York City photographs made in the 1940s and later by Charles Weever Cushman, but it did and these show us how much (and how little) has changed in this wonderful city.

Charles Weever Cushman was an amateur photographer and Indiana University alumnus, who bequeathed approximately 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater. The photographs in this collection bridge a thirty-two year span from 1938 to 1969.

Most of these places shown in the photographs have either been demolished or altered, except for one or two in the East Village. My favorite is the one above of Chinese store windows in Chinatown made on October 7, 1942.... I wonder where that is.

Which brings me to street photography. I read a day or two ago that Scott Strazzante got into trouble because some random guy took umbrage to his shooting from the hip, and shoved him. You can read of the incident here.  I also got some grief when an older fellow, whom I was photographing quite openly, hurled the vilest of epithets at me but he wasn't physical. You can read about it here.

The guy who shoved Scott said that photographing people from the hip was "intellectually unfair".  I don't know what he meant, except perhaps he thought that it wasn't really photography, and for it to be fair, people being photographed had to be aware that Scott (or I and other street photographers who shoot from the hip) were photographing them...otherwise it was a sort of surveillance photography.

Scott actually thinks that "shooting from the hip is kinda creepy".  I don't disagree (which isn't quite the same as saying that I agree) with this notion, but I would qualify it by saying that it depends who the subjects are.  For example, if provocatively dressed young women are being photographed
surreptitiously with a different intent than pure street photography, then it's creepy. Otherwise, shooting from the hip is no different than shooting candid portraits with a long lens.