This Is Not Street Style
Looking for style in some very unexpected places.
It’s your last chance to catch one of the most eye-opening photography exhibitions in town: “Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909-1949,” which closes at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday, April 19. With more than 300 images by key European and American photographers—including Andre Kertesz, Edward Weston, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Lisette Model—the show is a crash course in the modernist avant-garde. But Walther, a German collector now based in Zurich, is not your typical trophy hunter. Although his collection is peppered with some of 20th-century photography’s most iconic works, those pictures are shown alongside a host of others by lesser-known and anonymous artists, and it’s this rich, unexpected material that gives the exhibition its unique scope, depth, and flavor. As installed by MoMA curators Quentin Bajac and Sarah Hermanson Meister, the show captures a period of social and artistic upheaval and experimentation in a series of vivid, occasionally delirious images, many of which dive deep into abstraction. But “Modern Photographs” is just as engaging when it comes to more documentary-style images, especially in a section at the end of the exhibition titled “Symphony of a Great City.” There, amid cityscapes by Germaine Krull, Berenice Abbott, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, and others, is the photograph reproduced here: “Puddle Jumper,” taken in 1925 by Friedrich Seidenstucker (1882-1966), a German photographer known for his snapshot-like pictures of people on the street in Berlin. Walther compares Seidenstucker to Bill Cunningham, The New York Times photographer whose weekly “On the Street” feature has a huge cult following. But this shot also calls to mind Richard Avedon’s famous picture of Carmen leaping over a curb in Paris in 1957, made in homage to Martin Munkacsi but recalling another Harper’s Bazaar predecessor, Jean Moral. Add Seidenstucker to this list of fashion influences—photographers who found fashion, alive and kicking, on the urban street.