Photography retrospectives like the one currently on display by the late photographer Jerome Liebling at Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea (showing now through April 19th) have a way of grabbing me in a way a lot of art just can’t. The collection of 75 beautiful photos span some six decades and are a stunning look at both city life and beyond. It’s art, nostalgia and history all together at once. Liebling’s photographs embody all of those things in such an effortless way. Each has an interesting gesture, perspective, texture or theme. Often all of these elements are captured together to freeze moments in time. The collection of images is titled “Matter of Life and Death”, and the photos comprise everything from youth to death and all of the scenes in-between. The show was curated by Liebling’s daughter Rachel and is a moving selection of images capturing people from all walks of life.
Photography as a medium is inspiring to me mainly because of the fact that the process is so seemingly democratic (as camera technology is available to almost anyone), but it takes the eye and creativity of an artist to truly distinguish one’s work. As someone who occupies the very far end of the amateur photography spectrum, the more I progress, the less I realize I know. That and, you either have the eye or you don’t. Some things you can’t just muscle through.
More about the photographer Jerome Liebling:
Liebling’s body of work defies easy categorization. He was in his element in both color and black and white; at home on New York City streets or in Massachusetts apple orchards. Jerome Liebling grew up in Brooklyn, a first-generation son of European immigrants. During World War II, Liebling served in the 82nd Airborne. He enlisted to fight for a cause he believed in but returned from military service with a staunch anti-war sentiment that endured his entire lifetime. Back home, he enrolled at Brooklyn College under the G.I. Bill and studied design with the painter Ad Reinhardt and photography with Walter Rosenblum. In 1948, Liebling joined the Photo League, a socially minded photographers’ cooperative, where, along with Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith and Aaron Siskind, he took to the streets to focus his lens on undocumented corners of urban life. In 1948, Liebling joined the Photo League, a socially minded photographers’ cooperative, where, along with Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith and Aaron Siskind, he took to the streets to focus his lens on undocumented corners of urban life.