Changing New York | 1935-1938

The New York Public Library has a terrific Flickr set by photographer (and Ohio native) Berenice Abbott. During the rough economic times of the 1930s the federal government funded various projects for unemployed artists and workers in related fields such as advertising, graphic design, illustration, photofinishing, and publishing. Under this program the Federal Art Project commissioned Abbott’s Changing New York, a massive undertaking to document New York City. Eventually the photographs ended up being published in a book that was released at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow New York. The photographs were also distributed to various public institutions throughout the area. It would be interesting to see if our current government would ever have the foresight to commission such projects today, or maybe that money is tied up in Citigroup’s Falcon 7x.

Look at all those Boater hats…

Comments on “Changing New York | 1935-1938

    John George on February 10, 2009 11:33 AM:

    I’m a graphic designer and every time I hear the phrase “shovel ready” I wonder if the new green consciousness could use the government supported assistance of PSA posters and billboards to help out the print industry as well as banking and construction.

    Foster Huntington on February 10, 2009 12:02 PM:

    these are amazing. they remind me of the Godfather and Once upon a time in america.

    joshua on February 10, 2009 12:04 PM:

    Fantastic! I’m a huge NYC history buff as well as an avid reader of 19th and early 20th century New York books and have yet to see such photos all in one place.

    Next step is to do a then & now retrospect.

    Kudos ACL!

    ron on February 10, 2009 12:05 PM:

    Berenice Abbott was a monstrous talent. She went to Paris in the 1920’s chillin with Hemingway and Picasso.
    She assisted for Man Ray. Her encounter with the Great french recluse Photog, Atget was the turning point in her young career!
    The New York portfolio is an amazing document of the ever changing landscape!

    jk on February 10, 2009 12:27 PM:

    This is an excellent post.

    nick on February 10, 2009 1:11 PM:

    there’s a guy at the hells kitchen flea-market who sells prints of photos like these.

    Andreas on February 10, 2009 6:04 PM:

    inspirational pictures. Make you want to go back and live in that era. Except for the tuberculosis deaths and rampant institutional racism.

    S. Acton on February 10, 2009 6:59 PM:

    boater hats for all.

    Theodore Williams on February 11, 2009 7:31 AM:

    I LOVE Berenice Abbott!

    Steidl (A German art publisher) did her work great justice last year – the best printing and overview of her works I’ve seen yet (in book form). I’ve seen other books of hers where the reproductions didn’t do the pictures justice. Check it out if you haven’t had a chance to see it, will see if I can find a link…

    Still yet to see any of her prints in the flesh though, that would be marvelous.

    Theodore Williams on February 11, 2009 7:32 AM:
    teabiscuit on February 11, 2009 5:23 PM:

    Is that top one the old penn station?

    Michael Williams on February 11, 2009 5:25 PM:

    Teabiscuit — yes! Amazing considering how ugly the new Penn Station is…


    Justin on February 11, 2009 7:00 PM:

    I’ve always loved Abbott’s work. She photographed the building I grew up in, too, the Alwyn Court on 58th and 7th (part of this series):
    I’ve had a copy of it for years, and treasure it.

    sarah on February 18, 2009 9:41 AM:

    love these photos, it’s amazing to imagine NY back then.

Comments are closed.