This room features a mix of both ordinary people and celebrities from different periods.

In the 1950s, Philippe Halsman gave studio portraiture an energy formerly associated with the street by asking celebrities simply to jump. Persuading them to lose control for an instant helped him to avoid a frozen pose. ‘The mask falls. The real self becomes visible. One only has to snap it with the camera’, he explained. 

By contrast, contemporary photographer Andres Serrano gives street culture a formality commonly associated with the studio. His portraits of the often unnoticed, poverty-stricken figures of the city were taken in an improvised studio in the New York subway. Serrano elevates his subjects by posing them almost regally. 

Arthur Fellig became known as Weegee (‘Ouija’) because of his uncanny ability to be on the scene of a crime almost as it happened. He would tune into police radio signals and usually manage to beat the authorities to the scene, gathering raw images of violence and distress that he developed in the boot of his car.

Lisette Model and Diane Arbus also found their subjects on the streets of New York. The mask of urban glamour seemed to wither under their critical lenses. Both women were significant figures in the flourishing of street photography in New York in the 1950s and 1960s.

Andres Serrano From Nomads John Paul 1990

Andres Serrano 1950
Born and works USA
From Nomads
John Paul 1990
Cibachrome, silicone, Plexiglas
© Andres Serrano. Courtesy of the artist and the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Philippe Halsman From Jump - Edward Steichen, Edward Steichen 1959

Philippe Halsman 1906-1979
Born Latvia, worked France, USA
From Jump - Edward Steichen
Edward Steichen 1959
Gelatin silver print

© Philippe Halsman – Magnum Photos