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Irving Browning at The New York Historical Society - Collection Gems
Bridgeman Images is proud to represent the New York Historical Society which holds the works of Irving Browning
New York-born Irving Browning (1895-1961) was a self-taught photographer and cinematographer who opened a commercial photograph studio at 110 West 40th Street in 1922 where his younger brother, Sam, occasionally worked with him as a photographer.
Browning was frequently commissioned by architectural firms, advertising agencies and magazines to illustrate the urban environment, his moody photographs capturing the exteriors and interiors of landmark skyscrapers, apartments and the suburbs as well as the lifestyles of New Yorkers during the 1920s and 30s.
As construction in Manhattan flourished despite the Depression, Browning was hired to document such new architectural landmarks as the Chrysler Building, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the RKO Roxy and Earl Carroll theatres, and the towering Empire State Building.
Many of his photographs from the 1930s meditate on the contrasts of poverty and wealth; they focus on poor Lower East Side peddlers, former businessmen selling apples in the aftermath of the stock market crash, and shantytowns as well as on such things as well-heeled shoppers perusing fashionable window displays and the leisure activities and lifestyles of the wealthy.
He is described as an innovative photographer who took an avid interest in the technical aspects of his craft. Browning's creative and sometimes frenetic photomontages were popular among magazine advertising clients.
Browning was also a comedian and actor and later in his career worked as a director, producer and cameraman, gaining some notice for his short films and documentaries. His work is held by the New York Historical Society, whose collection has recently been digitized in its entirety.
“This collection can now be evaluated as a whole, and one can see elements emerge repeatedly in the work that paints a picture of Browning’s particular point of view. From the way solitary figures are captured, silhouettes are isolated from the busyness of cityscapes, and light and shadows dominate a frame; to the surreal quality that emerges from surprising juxtapositions in some of the photomontages; these images are distinguished from just a client or project, and reflect the aesthetic sensibility of the photographer.”
Eleanor Gillers, Head of Rights and Reproductions, New-York Historical Society