Steven Kasher Gallery is pleased to present Dan Weiner: Vintage New York, 1940-1959 the first solo exhibition of the photographer’s work in over a decade. The exhibition consists of vintage black and white prints made between 1940 and 1959. The exhibition focuses on Weiner’s New York work, highlighting the photographer’s roots in, love for, and inspired representations of his home city. Weiner’s portrayal of city life during a period of explosive growth and economic expansion is at once caring, inquisitive and critical, with a pronounced sociological bent. Also on view is the exhibition Sandra Weiner: New York Kids, 1940-1966. This is the first time that exhibitions of the husband and wife photographers have been on view concurrently.
Weiner is one of the original “concerned photographers.” In 1940 he joined the Photo League, a group of socially minded photographers including Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith, Aaron Siskind and Dorothea Lange. Soon he was teaching an advanced class at the League. While taking part in Sid Grossman’s Documentary Class, out of which grew the “East Side Group,” Weiner photographed people and events around the Lower East Side. As his wife Sandra, whom he met during this period, later wrote, it was “an inspiring period for a young photographer.” Weiner firmly believed in the power of the camera to highlight social and economic problems and affect change.
In her extended 1989 New Yorker story about the exhibition America Worked: The 1950s Photographs of Dan Weiner at the Museum of Modern Art, Ingrid Sischy wrote, “[Weiner’s] ‘decisive moment’ was different from Cartier-Bresson’s: it wasn’t the instant that stands out because what’s happening is so exceptional; it was the stretch of time when supposedly nothing much is going on. And that’s why everything is there- all the dynamics between people which most other photographers missed because they were holding out for the remarkable. It’s clear why Garry Winogrand, who sought that same artlessness in his snapshots, admired Weiner’s work….These photographs treat the workday and domestic life of the fifties as though it were as much a subject for revelation as the court was in Velasquez’s time, or the battlefield in Delacroix’s.”
The images in the exhibition are largely taken from Weiner’s extended project in Yorkville. Weiner photographed the working-class neighborhood in-depth. At the time, the tenement apartments in Yorkville were so cramped that much of the social interactions of both adults and children took place in the streets, facilitating Weiner’s access to his subjects. These photographs emerged from a larger photographic endeavor, “Neighborhoods of New York”, a Photo League project spearheaded by Consuelo Kanaga to document specific neighborhoods in the city.
Weiner remains one of the most important and most eloquent documentarians of life in the 1940s and 1950s. In recent decades. Weiner’s work has been inadequately honored, even though his professional career was extensive over the ten years before his untimely death. Weiner died at age 39, on assignment in Kentucky, when a small plane, piloted by the subject of his story, slammed into a mountainside during a freak snowstorm. After Weiner’s death, Walker Evans said “There have always been a few serious, gifted hands working in photography, since its beginnings. Dan Weiner was one of them.” Edward Steichen said, “The small rank of fine photographers has been cruelly thinned by the loss of Dan Weiner.” More bluntly, Arthur Miller wrote, “The death of such a phenomenon is inadmissible.”