Jonathan Brand’s joyful street photography of New York’s Lower East and Upper West Side from 1957 – 1968
Sometimes street photography can feel a bit dull these days. What may have been avant-garde 50 years ago may not resonate so strongly with the image-led society we are today. But one photographer offers up such a shining example of street photography it is impossible ot ignore his work. Jonathan Brand and his joyful images of New York’s Lower East and Upper West neighbors has left us wanting more.
Once we’d delved a little deeper, the most interesting part to us however, was that Brand completed most of his photographic work as he went to and from his office day job. It is this ‘happened-upon’ excitement which permeates his every image.
In his book Lower East and Upper West: New York City Photographs 1957–1968, we see “striking images of New Yorkers engaged in everyday pursuits” and thus we are provided not only with a snapshot of a time gone by but a brief exposition of the working class culture of the city, not only of the subjects but of our photographer too.
“Growing up, I don’t ever remember a time when my father was not taking pictures. He usually had two Leicas strung around his neck and would casually grab shots without breaking stride. Sometimes he didn’t even raise the viewfinder to his eye; he focused and adjusted the aperture almost automatically. This was in keeping with his unobtrusive style as a street photographer – matter-of-fact, almost anonymous.” – Ulrika Brand, Jonathan’s daughter said while speaking with Flashbak.
“My father bought his first camera in 1956 in Norway, where he was a Fulbright Student at the University of Oslo. Back in the United States, his love of the medium developed and grew through practice and study with some of the most accomplished photographers of the day: Richard Avedon, Garry Winogrand, David Vestal, and Bruce Davidson. Winogrand became a close friend and was his companion during lunchtime photographic forays in Midtown Manhattan. This work and relationship was the subject of a 2014 exhibition, Two-Way Street, at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.”