New York certainly never sleeps and is always changing. The proof: Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York, a collection of some 305 photographs from the mid-1930s that reveal a city recognizable but starkly different from the metropolis we know today.
Abbott began her signature project—now available online and for purchase (at economy-friendly prices) through the New York Public Library—in 1933 and eventually published it for New York World’s Fair in 1939. A wonderful example of straight photography (the photos resemble momentary glimpses from the window of a speeding taxi or train), Changing New York shows the age of familiar New York landmarks: The starkly modern American International Building rises behind a horse and buggy; downtown’s Art Deco towers are matched by the masts of a working ship; and elevated tracks pass by the Jefferson Market Courthouse. Abbott’s photographs were supposed to be a portrait of a city in rebirth, but now we can consider them history.
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