The Power of Photographs

Sid Grossman (American, 1913–1955).

Mulberry Street, 1948.Gelatin silver print;

33.7 x 26.5 cm (13 1/4 x 10 7/16 in.). 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift,
through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990 

The night and particularly the electrified night are the topic of a show of photographs closing this weekend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Night Vision: Photography After Dark.”

Sid Grossman’s “Mulberry Street” (at right) is part of the show. It depicts the lights and gates of the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy (coincidentally in its first of two weekends today and tomorrow).

There’s some really fascinating work in the show, but it’s appeal is damaged by the installation.  The room is small and dark with a lowish ceiling and dark blue or black walls.  The effect is claustrophobic, even on what was a relatively uncrowded day at the Met.  But furthermore, this unpleasant presentation strikes me as unnecessary.  Shouldn’t part of the point of photographs of the night be that they convey the feeling of the experience when you’re not actually in a darkened space?

The relative uncrowded condition of the museum today can be attributed partly to the passing of the seasons from Summer into Fall and partly to the Steuben Parade marching up Fifth Avenue, which made getting to the museum more challenging than usual.

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