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Eudora Welty in New York: Photographs of the Early 1930's
THE FENCE, ca. 1935. Eudora Welty. Modern gelatin silver print from the original negative. ©Eudora Welty, LLC; Eudora Welty Collection - Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

NEW YORK.- Fifty black-and-white photographs taken by Eudora Welty (1909-2001), one of the 20th century’s greatest American authors, will be on exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York from November 7, 2008, through February 15, 2009. Beginning with a re-creation of her first solo photography show held in 1936 at the then Photographic Galleries in New York, and ending with eleven photographs the author made in New York City, the exhibition reveals Welty’s fascination with, and compassion towards, people from all walks of life.

“Eudora Welty’s first exhibition of photographs took place in New York City,” commented Susan Henshaw Jones, President and Director of the Museum. “It is fitting that the Museum of the City of New York re-present them for a new generation of photography enthusiasts, literature lovers, and museum-goers.”

A major symposium will examine Welty’s life and work on Thursday, November 6 at 4:00 p.m. at the Museum. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, Duke University professor and distinguished writer Reynolds Price, and longtime public television producer and newsman Robert MacNeil will join Suzanne Marrs, Welty biographer and Welty Foundation Scholar-in-Residence at Millsaps College, to discuss Welty’s writing and photography and their friendship with Welty. A reception to open the exhibition will follow the symposium. Reservations are required; for more information about the symposium, and to purchase tickets, the public may call 212-534-1672, ext. 3395, or visit

Eudora Welty in New York: Photographs of the Early 1930s focuses on Welty’s experience in New York during a turning point in her career. She was drawn to New York City and was accepted to the graduate school at Columbia University in 1930. While her father’s terminal illness took her back home to Mississippi the following year, Welty made frequent return trips to New York in pursuit of a career as an author and photographer. After years of encouragement with no significant opportunities, 1936 was a watershed year for Welty: she was finally able to secure two exhibitions of her photographic work in New York City and succeeded in having her first short story published.

Most of the photographs in the exhibition were in Welty’s original exhibit or are prints made by Welty herself. They are loaned from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and from the Welty family’s personal collection.

The re-staged Photographic Galleries exhibition will consist primarily of photographs that document the people of Mississippi during the economic depths of the Great Depression, depicting everyday activities and capturing the casual interactions among black and white Southerners facing the hardships of the time. Welty’s New York photographs continue this line of inquiry, compassionately documenting the unemployed at Union Square. Others reveal the artist’s interest in the city’s built environment. In 1937, less than two years after the creation of the New York photographs in this exhibition, Welty published “Flowers for Marjorie” (Prairie Schooner, Summer 1937), her only short story set in New York City. This piece captures in words many of the same scenes and subjects that caught the author’s eye as a photographer, including the unemployed, their demonstrations, and New York’s elevated trains.

Born April 13, 1909, in Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty lived there the majority of her 92 years. She attended Mississippi University for Women and later graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin. Postgraduate work took Welty to New York for a year of advertising studies at Columbia University’s business school. She returned to Mississippi in 1931.

For several months in late 1936, Welty served as a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration and traveled throughout rural Mississippi. Her first short story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman,” was published in 1936 by Manuscript (the same year in which the Photographic Galleries exhibited her photographs), and in 1941, her first book—the short story collection A Curtain of Green—was published by Doubleday. Welty was on staff at the New York Times Book Review in 1944 and became deeply involved with the New York stage. In 1956 her skit “Bye-Bye Brevoort” (set in the famous New York hotel) was featured in Phoenix Theatre’s The Littlest Review, and her novella The Ponder Heart was adapted for the Broadway stage. The musical adaptation of The Robber Bridegroom opened on Broadway in 1976.

She won eight O. Henry awards and two Guggenheim Fellowships (1942 and 1949) and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel The Optimist's Daughter (Random House). One Time, One Place (Random House), a book of 100 black-and-white photographs published in 1971, focused exclusively on Welty's Depression era pictures; her 1989 book, titled Eudora Welty Photographs (University Press of Mississippi), features more than 200 images taken over several decades.

Eudora Welty in New York: Photographs of the Early 1930s is curated by Sean Corcoran, Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Museum of the City of New York. Major sponsors of the exhibit are Mr. and Mrs. Stuart M. Irby, Sr., of Jackson, Mississippi. Other supporters include the Eudora Welty Foundation; the Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism Division; Mr. and Mrs. W. Patrick McMullan III of Brooklyn, New York; the Mississippi Arts Commission; the Mississippi Department of Archives and History; Mr. Marshall Bennett of New York City; the Crawford-Doyle Charitable Foundation of New York City; Mr. and Mrs. E. B. Robinson of Jackson, Mississippi; State Street Group, LLC, of Jackson, Mississippi; and Mr. Gene Dattel of New York City. The exhibition chair is Bruno A. Quinson, a member of both the Board of Trustees of the Museum of the City of New York and the National Advisory Board of the Eudora Welty Foundation.

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