As a photography minor, finding cool photography exhibitions is not only enjoyable but serves as inspiration as well. I stumbled across something quite special at the Columbus Museum of Art recently and urge those near and far to venture to downtown Columbus for a peek at The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 exhibit. This exhibit takes viewers on a time machine through the mid-twentieth century. It delves into the photography of the New York Photo League spanning from the 1930’s Great Depression era to the 1950’s Red Scare era.
The purpose of the Photo League was to document the realities of social life including poverty, war, and racial inequality during some of America’s most difficult times. This resulted in intensely dramatic black and white photographs spanning from urban to rural society. As I paced the connecting rooms, I watched onlookers reactions' to the photographs. Most stood in awe from the uncensored depictions of life, and others were moved to tears. I couldn’t help but wonder if some had lived during the span of years the photos covered. This isn’t to say that all the photographs are grave in subject, in fact, many are amusing (a drag queen dressed to perform in a circus), and many are uplifting (soldiers coming home from war).
The Photo League aimed to expose all aspects of American life , and that is done realistically and aesthetically through these stunning photos. What I found most intriguing was the change in style of the photos through the years. As the exhibit continues, a change from sheer documentation to a more personal artistic style comes out.
This exhibit is well worth a visit and is free on Sundays. Ticket prices for the rest of the week are $10 for adults, $8 for students, and $5 for ages 6 to seventeen. Members and children five and under are free. It’s on display until September 9, so I urge you to take a lazy summer day and travel back in time for this “radical” show.