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Iconic post-Depression photographs come to Palm Beach

26 Apr 2013 11:46 AM
Iconic post-Depression photographs come to Palm Beach

In the wake of the Great Depression, a new hybrid art form that combined journalism and photography emerged, as artists and social historians worked to document the poverty and social inequality that engulfed the embattled country. This new art form spawned iconic images of America's hardest-hit areas - including the heartland - that helped citizens better understand the true impact of the Depression.

However, it wasn't until a group of New York-based immigrants and students formed an organization called the Photo League that the new form truly reached a wide audience. Throughout the 1930s and '40s, this group of ambitious photographers documented urban poverty, racial tension and other societal issues in and around Manhattan. Their work spurred sweeping legislation and helped change the way the country viewed its most perilous residents, all while relying on relatively simple, candid photographs.

Finally, Palm Beach residents will get to see these historic pieces for themselves in a new show at the Norton Museum of Art. The show - "The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951" - features hundreds of original photos from the organization and runs through June 16.

Known for their unflinching look at inner-city poverty, the photographs have become iconic images for both their social impact and artistic merits. Visitors to the museum will be treated to photographs that have endured as some of the most moving and beautiful in the medium's history. Carefully curated, the new show in Palm Beach helps guide guests through this important period without overwhelming them.

When the show was first exhibited last year in New York City, it was heralded as one of the most important of its kind. In her review of the show for The New York Times, art critic Karen Rosenberg called "The Radical Camera" a "stirring show" that captures "the breadth and spirit of the league." 

One of the strengths of the current show is its depth and diversity, as it features photographs that capture the full range of emotions and issues that were hallmarks of the era. Photos of struggling working class immigrants rub shoulders with gaudier, almost humorous images of elaborately outfitted socialites.

After brief stops in Manhattan and Columbus, Ohio, the new Norton exhibition gives owners of Palm Beach real estate a chance to view some of the most memorable and cherished images from some of America's darkest days.