Archived entries for everyday

New York’s Photo League

The Photo League was a New York City–based organization of professional and amateur photographers. A splinter group of the Film and Photo League, it was founded in 1936 by photographers Sid Grossman (1913–1955) and Sol Libsohn (1914–2001). Many of its members were young, first-generation, working-class Jewish Americans.

In keeping with its educational, activist, and aesthetic goals, the League offered lectures, darkroom access, and classes on history and technique, as well as exhibition opportunities. It promoted photography as a fine art and also championed the use of documentary photography to expose social problems and instigate social change.

During its fifteen-year existence, the League was among only a handful of places in New York that offered study in documentary photography, and it was unique in offering inexpensive classes and darkroom access.

The majority of the Photo League images were taken in New York City, but members also took photographs across the United States—for instance, in rural communities in the south—and, during World War II, in Europe, Asia, and Central America. Most of the photographs document ordinary people and everyday life and celebrate democracy in all its diversity. The photographs also include images of poverty and other hardships, which is not surprising given the social conscience of most of the members.

The League published a newsletter called Photo Notes, through which its members’ images, educational philosophies, and ideological stances and debates could be further disseminated.

via The Jewish Museum New York | Overview.

small fates | TEJU COLE (II)

But the key aspect of the experience for the non-Nigerian is the cascade of names and places, both the names in traditional Nigerian languages, or the unexpected incursion of English-language names. Some of these “English” names would not be borne by anyone in England: Miracle, Precious, Gift, Sunday. The non-English names, on the other hand, place you deep inside a world that might, at first, feel hard to understand, or even to pronounce. But even for those who can’t tell an Igbo name from a Yoruba one, or what makes the culture of Bauchi state different from that of Edo, the stories remain poignant. They are human stories. There are crimes of passion, inexplicable murders, courtroom outbursts, and moments of greed.

via small fates | TEJU COLE.

small fates | TEJU COLE

As I began work on my new book, a non-fictional narrative of Lagos, and was paying more and more attention to daily life in the city, a peculiar thing happened. I found myself drawn to the “small” news. I began to read the metro sections of newspapers, and the crime sections. When I was in Lagos itself, where there is a thriving newspaper culture, I bought several papers and went through them each day. In Brooklyn, I rely on the internet, through which I have access to some dozen Nigerian papers each day: Daily Times, NEXT, Vanguard, Punch, This Day, National Mirror, Tribune, PM News, Guardian, and so on. What I found in the metro and crime sections of these papers was a different quality of everyday life. It was life in the raw, as one might find in the Daily News or the New York Post, but not so much in the New York Times.

A lot of this material does not have direct bearing on the book I am working on. It is too brief, too odd, and certainly too sensational for the kind of writing the book requires. The material needed another outlet. That outlet turned out to be a form of writing for which there is no exact English term: fait divers. This is a French expression, in common use for centuries, for a certain kind of newspaper piece: a compressed report of an unusual happening. What fait divers means literally is “incidents,” or “various things.” The nearest English equivalent is “news briefs” or, more recently, “news of the weird.” The fait divers has a long and important history in French literature. Sensationalistic though it is, it has influenced the writing of Flaubert, Gide, Camus, Le Clézio and Barthes. In Francophone literature, it crossed the line from low to high culture. But though a version of it was present in American newspapers, it never quite caught on in the English language as a literary form.

via small fates | TEJU COLE.



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