Vivian Cherry: A Working Street Photographer 1940s–1990s will cover a half a century of work by a pioneering documentary photographer who made a significant contribution to a growing photographic movement of the time. At the Brooklyn Museum of Art May 19 through August 6, this first retrospective of Vivian Cherry’s work will include seventy-seven photographs selected from the Museum’s holdings by Curator of Photography Barbara Head Millstein.
Among the photographs in the exhibition will be ones focusing on social conditions in the Lower East Side garment industry, depression-era Harlem, Brooklyn neighborhoods, and Times Square. There will also be selections from a famous series that documents the 1950s demolition of Manhattan’s Third Avenue elevated transit line. Vintage photographs of life in rural West Virginia and Georgia as well as recent photographs taken in Mexico will be included as well.
Born in 1920, Vivian Cherry currently lives in Manhattan and continues to photograph neighborhoods throughout New York City. She began her career in the 1930s and became one of a handful of women who were given street assignments by publications such as Life, Ebony, Sports Illustrated, and Pageant. Often she supplemented her income as a photographer by performing as a dancer in clubs and Broadway musicals.
In the 1940s Vivian Cherry became active with the Photo League, a group of New York photographers who were dedicated to a progressive social agenda and favored street photography above all other genres. She studied under Sid Grossman, also a member of the Photo League and an instructor in documentary photography. She later made several short films and collaborated with Arnold Eagle as a still photographer on a film about Lee Strasberg.
This exhibition is made possible in part by the BMA’s Prints & Photographs Council.