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New York City and Paris may seem a world apart, but despite the 3600 miles that separates the two great cities similar human dramas have continued to be scripted and enacted for as long as the cities have existed. The physical structure, social fabric, personal and public histories of Paris and New York are rich, multi-faceted, complex and challenging. They have been a fertile ground for many of the master photographers to explore over the last century.

Cities are living, breathing entities that have always fascinated and inspired visual artists. The New York School photographers – who emerged in the late 30’s and 40’s captured the energy of the city with hand held 35 mm cameras. They seldom used tripods or flash and tried to stop time with their spontaneous approach to keeping pictures fresh and unforced. They often dealt with the individual in a personal, but anonymous way. An individual stood for the universal. The daily activities and emotions of people were scrutinized through the camera lens.

The Photo League was a group of photographers that were active between 1936 and 1951. This group of photographers pointed their lens’ at the common citizens of New York and were interested in exploring the social fabric of the city. They were democratic in their avoidance of elitism. Unafraid to be up close and personal to their subject they recorded the full range of human responses and emotions. The composing of images was ‘on the fly,’ and the camera became the great equalizer of all people.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the French Humanist photographers lovingly and collectively portrayed the soul of the inhabitants of everyday Paris. They excelled at championing the physical beautify of their city and portrayed the daily activities of the Parisians. Through the photographs of the French Humanists, the ‘City of Lights’ shines brightly and embraces its populace with the backdrops of wonderful parks, inviting benches and chairs, grand boulevards, public monuments and quiet romantic dark corners.

We have a chance, through the greatly varied work in this exhibition to lovingly explore andreminisce about two of the world’s most remarkable cities. Both in public and private spaces, the cities provide different compelling dramatic sets where physical and emotional stories are captured on film and come to life in the viewer’s eyes. If, as Shakespeare has written, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players;” – than New York City and Paris are two of the most fascinating stages ever devised!

by Holden Luntz