New York by Helen Levitt (c. 1942)

The photograph titled “New York” was captured by artist Helen Levitt around the year 1942. This black and white image presents a candid street scene representative of Levitt’s work, which often documents the play and interactions of children in urban settings.

In the image, a young girl perches atop a high stoop or railing, seemingly in play. She appears to be either holding onto or interacting with a long, thin object—perhaps a stick or a piece of ribbon—that extends down towards a younger child standing on the sidewalk. The child on the ground, with hair tousled, looks upward towards the girl above with what might be a look of amazement or interest. In the background, there’s a slightly out of focus group of people, mostly children. They are sitting on another set of stairs, watching the scene unfold. The setting has an authentic, everyday life feel, characteristic of neighborhoods in New York City during that era, and displays the spontaneity and creativity that children often employ in their games. The architecture, clothing styles, and overall ambiance provide insight into city life in the early 1940s.

Other Photographs from Helen Levitt

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