In what way do challenge that tradition? Helen Levitt was a renowned photographer in New York that was especially famous for her interest in street photography that specifically focused on children. Her focus on children developed while she was an art teacher back in 1937 and she had close interaction with the transition children experienced while in the New York streets. Due to her closeness and sometimes working relationship with some other highly rated photographers, Levitt was mentored by photographers such as Walker Evans, and some traits of her work seem to be borrowed from some of her mentors. This first section of the paper will look at one of Levitt’s best-known and appreciated untitled photographic work that would be referred to as Children in New York City for purposes of reference (Levitt, 3). The photograph Children in New York City represents three children, notably two boys and one girl at the doorway of what is believed to be their household. The masks they adorn depict that it is Halloween time, a tradition observed on 31st October on the night preceding All Saints’ Day. At the bottom stair to the doorway is a boy adorning a jacket, a pair of shorts and with a relaxed stance of crossed legs while holding the staircase rail. He is masked and looks out on the street. The child in the middle is also a masked boy that has his legs on two different levels of the stairs, one where the bottom boy is and one where the other child stands. This boy is wearing long pants with seemingly a matching top. At the top is a girl with a dress trying to put on her mask in a bid to join the others. The building is made of brick evidenced by the appearance on the right of the viewer, with a glass-paneled door seeming to reflect the opposite side of the streets. Superficially, this photograph could be dismissed off as simply showing children that were getting ready for a possible trick or treat practice during the Halloween celebrations. However, there is more of the photograph than appears to the eye. This is one aspect of photography that Levitt seems to have borrowed from one of her greatest mentor, Walker Evans, who thrived to do photography that was educative, inspiring and authoritative. A deeper look and interpretation could derive more than what meets the eye of Levitt’s photography. In as much as the tone of the attire reflected an innocent desire of the awaiting excitement, rather exuberance, for the three children, the positioning of the kids on the stairs and the state of their masking shows a transition that would pass by many viewers. Only a portrait of the awaiting fun moment would pass most minds. However, this is still a fundamental depiction that reflected the enthusiasm that existed in the late 1930s during such festivals. The other perspective of the photograph depicts how isolation of kids at a young age would lead them astray in the absence of the responsible caretakers. Exposure of the children to various grown aspects of life might have taught them already too much than their age limits allow. The various steps down the doorway could reveal the various stages the children undergo in their transition from innocent life to a completely dishonest life most adults led. The furthest child from the doorway indicates complete alienation from the caretakers or rather parents and his composure with fully worn masks depicts acceptance into a deceitful world. The cunning look towards the
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Name 1. Helen Levitt, Untitled (Children in New York City), c. 1940 Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Laughing Mannequins, 1930 Discuss the ways in which these images capture both the alienation and exuberance of urban space in the 30s and 40s. Consider the works’ formal qualities: their snapshot like feel, the placement of figures, etc…
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