Ida Wyman: East Harlem, New York, 1947 In Color

2021-02-12 - 2021-05-16

This series of color Ektachromes Ida Wyman made of East Harlem in 1947 were discovered in her archive only recently, and exist as the only color body of work from that period.

East Harlem in 1947 was a neighborhood of immigrants from poor and working class backgrounds. Her photographs reveal the extraordinary within the urban landscape. Reflecting the related practices of documentary photography, photojournalism, and street photography, these images are a testament to Wyman’s abiding curiosity about the human condition and the complexity of human experience, both familiar and unfamiliar.

Although not as famous as some of her contemporaries, Ida was one of the defining artists of early street photography that helped shape how we look at our world. Wyman’s photographic vignettes of life in urban centers and small towns in the United States, taken during the mid-twentieth century, illuminate the historical moment while providing a deeply humanist perspective on her subject. 

By the time Wyman was 16, she know that she wanted to work as a photographer. Opportunities then were few for women photographers, but in 1943 Wyman joined Acme Newspictures as a mail room ‘boy’; pulling prints and captioning them for clients. When WWII ended, Acme's only female printer was fired so a man could have her job. Wyman set out on her own to begin free-lance work for magazines, and her first photo story was published in LOOK magazine the same year. By 1948 she was in Los Angeles, working on assignments for LIFE magazine. She would eventually cover over 100 assignments for LIFE. Ida Wyman passed away at age 93 in 2019.

Blind Magazine: In a League of Her Own: Ida Wyman, Girl Photographer in a World of Men

View the full Ida Wyman collection here.