Street View

Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Leon Levinstein, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Weegee


Spanning six decades, from the 1930s to the 1980s, Street View reflects the development of street photography as a record of city life and shifting social and economic conditions. Drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, this exhibition highlights the work of seven photographers whose seminal visions helped to describe the 20th-century urban landscape.

Harry Callahan (1912 – 1999) was a self-taught photographer. He approached image-making in photography in diverse and new ways. Underlying many of his works is a strong commitment to the architectonics of urban and natural spaces.

Leon Levinstein (1908 – 1988) had a reputation for being a loner. He spoke very little about his photography, and his personal and professional relationships were often strained. Levinstein’s photographs are marked by a strong presence of form and deep sympathy for his subject.

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899 – 1968) is famous for his tabloid photographs of crime, disasters and destitution. Weegee used a large-format camera with a flash, a combination that allowed for high detail, instantaneousness and theatricality.

Lisette Model (1901 – 1983) started photographing in 1933, and moved to New York in 1937. She carefully framed her subjects, and then manipulated the image in the darkroom, burning, dodging and cropping to create expressionistic effects.

Helen Levitt (1913 – 2009) drew inspiration throughout her career from the streets of East Harlem, the East Village and the Lower East Side. A favourite subject was children and their playful, often rambunctious activities—from games to street chalk drawings.

Bruce Gilden (b. 1946) prowls the streets of major urban centres thrusting the camera in front of people.Gilden strives for rawness, summarized in his quip that “If you can smell the street by looking at the photograph, then it’s a street photograph.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) is one of the giant figures of twentieth-century photography. Cartier-Bresson is celebrated for his idea of the “decisive moment,” or the capacity “to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.”

From scenes of gritty human drama to formal compositions of urban architecture, these photographs evocatively frame public space and its inhabitants. Each photographer’s contribution to the canon of street photography is indisputable, as is their ongoing influence on the work of contemporary image-makers.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

Curated by Andrea Kunard and Bonnie Rubenstein