The Photo League (1936–1951) By Mickevicius , Emilia
The Photo League was a cooperative of photographers in New York united by shared social and creative motivations. The group’s members included Morris Engel, Sid Grossman, Helen Levitt, Walter Rosenblum, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, and Weegee. Other figures who supported the group but were not members included Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model, and Beaumont Newhall. The League was active from 1936 to 1951, and held regular meetings throughout its duration, as well as events, lectures, and symposia to promote education in photography skills and techniques. The group maintained darkroom facilities and an exhibition space in New York, initially on 21st Street and later on 10th Street. Combining social and political efficacy with a dedication to aesthetic standards in an environment that stressed creative collaboration, members of the Photo League produced imagery that contributed to the development of documentary practice within the greater creative and cultural ferment of the 1930s. On December 4, 1942, the Photo League was included on the list of “subversive” organizations submitted by U.S. Attorney General Tom C. Clark to President Harry S. Truman. The League denied the charges in a press release, and further challenged their blacklisting in a telegram sent directly to Attorney General Clark. Under this pressure, they ceased activity in 1951.