American (1924 – 2011)
Boy and Car, New York City (from Portfolio 3)
Gelatin Silver Print
Gift of Gerald Lotenberg ’49, 2001
As a member of The Photo League – a group of socially open-minded photographers, and as a child who grew up in poverty in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, Jerome Liebling understood “where the pain actually was present”. He formed a creative impulse which he used in his powerful photographic images, such as in Boy and Car, that draws attention to the undocumented corners of urban life. In this black and white image, Liebling presents a young African American boy, wearing a hat and holding a coat, standing next to a car. With his curious and direct gaze at the camera, vulnerable pose and gracefully crossed hands, it can take a second for the viewer to notice the broken shoes, that divulge his poverty. Liebling gives very little surrounding detail, so the viewer can focus their attention on the boy. He wrote: “By shooting this youngster without much environmental detail, I wanted to invite the viewer’s sympathetic interest in him, from his curious gaze to his gracefully crossed hands to the poverty betrayed by his cheaply made, broken shoes.” Liebling believed, that the children of these violent streets of New York City were the symbol of strength and worth despite their hardships.
Quotes from Documentary Photography magazine, 1972.
Label and audio guide by Magdalena Zdunczyk, graduate student in the Arts Administration program at Baruch College.