The Cushman Collection: Some of the greatest mid-century photos of New York you will ever see
Exhibit A: Times Square, July 9, 1960, by Charles W. Cushman. (Via University of Indiana collection)
Exhibit B: The same view, Aug. 14, 2008, 11 a.m. (Photo by Rolando Pujol)
A few quick observations: A skyscraper now dominates the southwest corner, where Nedick's once stood. Off in the distance, you can still see the McGraw Hill Building, but its presence is overwhelmed by a taller tower behind it. The New Amsterdam is still there. Lights from One Times Square still project from the right side of the view. The "Don't Walk" sign has been replaced by the hand.
One of the nation's great treasure troves of New York photography resides at the University of Indiana, where its name, the Charles W. Cushman Collection, hints not at its wonders.
But oh, if you love cities and what gives them texture and what makes them such fascinating places to live and work and play, these photos are worth a few minutes of your time right away. Cushman took photos of many American cities, all of which are classic and preserve mid-century America in vivid, color-saturated photographs.
We share this collection because twice yesterday, colleagues independently forwarded to me links of his work, with which I have been long familiar. But if you haven't seen Cushman's material before, well get ready.
First, a little about Mr. Cushman. He was not a professional photographer, but you wouldn't know it by the caliber of these photos. Indeed, if Cushman were from our times, he would have had one heck of a Flickr photo stream.From 1938 to 1969, he exhaustively photographed American landscapes as well as its people in beautiful, larger-than-life Kodachrome. An alumnus of the University of Indiana, Cushman left the school his vast collection. Here' s much more about his life and work. And here's the story of his travels with his camera.
But now, onto the good stuff. Get ready for vanished landscapes, each street teeming with the sorts of landscapes that warrant blog posts on Urbanite because they are now so rare. This is Endangered NYC before it was endangered. When it was just the streets of New York, nary a chain store (expect Woolworth's, which gets a pass) or glass condo in sight.
-- Rolando Pujol
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