The Alice Austen House, nestled in the heart of Rosebank, Staten Island has a lot of reasons for visiting: it is a charming museum overlooking Upper New York Bay which offers a window into life at the turn of the century, it attracts visitors form all five boroughs, it is handily located near the Staten Island Ferry, and it offers a chance to view rare exhibits in the house that maverick female photographer Alice Austen lived in for most of her life. Now on view is an exhibit of rare photographs by Alice Austen that hint at her eclectic and unusual life and the life of city streets depicted through her lens, added The Staten Island Advance today (April 30). Her photographs are available to view at The Alice Austen House Sunday through Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. Suggested donation is $2.
"Between 1894 and 1896, Alice Austen (1866-1952), the early photographer, launched a project far out of her usual comfort zone. She loaded her bicycle with 50 lbs. of equipment, rode from Rosebank to St. George, boarded the ferry and pedaled into the immigrant enclaves and market blocks of lower Manhattan, places like Hester Street and the Fulton Fish Market. There she photographed tenement women buying eggs, organ grinders, street-sweepers, deliverymen, newsboys and newsgirls," added Michael Fressola, columnist for The Staten Island Advance in an article that appeared on http://www.silive.com today.
"This was new territory for the photographer, who was sufficiently well-heeled so that she required neither a job nor a marriage. Previously she was far more likely to shoot her circle of relatives and friends and their activities â tennis and tea, regattas and picnics, house parties," added Fressola.
"She eventually published 12 of her city life images as "Street Types of New York," a set of photograph reproductions. It may have been a souvenir for tourists," added SI Live.
"The photographs, last shown at the museum in 1994, and now re-installed, alongside others in the same vein, have the expected Austen hallmarks: They are well-managed and sunny, balanced and informative. Austen didn't shoot the life of the street as it unfolded. She posed it and re-organized it, much as she would shoot anything or anyone else," added Fressola in SI Live.
"She shot a self-possessed young deliveryman with his bicycle on a newly street-swept 30th Street, near Broadway. A billboard in the distance advertises "Waverly Bicycles." In another photograph, a housewife in an open-air market is smiling broadly at her, at the photographer," added Fressola. "She said something amusing? Or was the subject simply reacting to odd spectacle of a well-dressed lady wrangling her cumbersome photographic equipment?"
"A little further uptown, at Seventh and 48th Street, an organ grinder and his wife posed for her with friendly, smiles. They are noticeably shabby, but they don't look at all bereft or hopeless. There are no abject types or sad-looking situations "Street Types;" even the young newspaper peddlers seem OK. It's worth noting that immigrant-quarter horrors like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 were 15 years away," adds Fressola.
"Unlike the photographer's regular subjects, "Street Types" raises more questions than it answers. The most obvious: Ladies like Austen simply did not explore the city's teeming tenement district, on a bicycle, no less, with cameras or not," according to the reporter in SI Live.
For more about this exhibit of rare photographs visit http://www.silive.com. This is one exhibit Staten Island photography fans and historians will not want to miss!