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Monroe Gallery of Photography opens first posthumous retrospective exhibition of photographs by Ida Wyman
Girl in Curlers © Ida Wyman.



SANTA FE, NM.- Monroe Gallery of Photography opened the first posthumous retrospective exhibition of photographs by Ida Wyman, who passed away in 2019. The exhibit continues through April 19, 2020 and includes several photographs from Ida Wyman’s archive being exhibited for the very first time.

Although not as famous as some of her contemporaries, Ida was one of the defining artists of early street photography that helped shape how we look at our world. Wyman’s photographic vignettes of life in urban centers and small towns in the United States, taken during the mid-twentieth century, illuminate the historical moment while providing a deeply humanist perspective on her subject.

Ida strived to capture everyday life of everyday people in all its frustrating, illogical and banal glory. From her classic Girl with Curlers photograph of a little girl on the street in LA staring defiantly at the viewer to the delicate symmetrical composition of Wrought Iron with Snow, Ida photographed what moved and inspired her. Her youthful idealism also attracted her to the Photo League, the famed crucible of humanistic documentation, where she reinforced her belief in the use of photography as a social tool.

The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ida Wyman was born March 7, 1926 in Malden, Massachusetts. The family soon moved to New York, where her parents ran a small grocery store in the Bronx. Her parents bought her a box camera when she was 14, and she joined the camera club at Walton High School, honing her skills at taking and printing pictures. By the time Wyman was 16, she know that she wanted to work as a photographer. Opportunities then were few for women photographers, but in 1943 Wyman joined Acme Newspictures as a mail room ‘boy’; pulling prints and captioning them for clients. At lunch hour, she photographed nearby laborers and office workers with her Graflex Speed Graphic camera.

“Wearing the camera trumped my shyness,” she said in “Chords of Memory” (2014), a book of her photographs and text on which she collaborated with Melanie Herzog. “I wasn’t threatening and I wore saddle shoes and bobby socks.”

On one of her lunch outings she photographed several men in Manhattan’s garment district in April 1945. One held up a copy of The Jewish Daily Forward, the Yiddish-language newspaper, as the others read about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. The rich details of the well-dressed men’s clothing contrasted with the mysteriously hazy background, which seemed to suggest uncertainty for the United States after Roosevelt’s death.

When the war ended, Acme's only female printer was fired so a man could have her job. Wyman set out on her own to begin free-lance work for magazines, and her first photo story was published in LOOK magazine the same year. By 1948 she was in Los Angeles, working on assignments for LIFE magazine. She would eventually cover over 100 assignments for LIFE.

For the next several years, Wyman covered assignments for LIFE, Fortune, Saturday Evening Post, Parade, and many other leading publications of the time. Her varied assignments always focused on human-interest stories, which have become a hallmark of her work. From 1951 through 1962, Wyman took time to raise a family, as well as handling many corporate assignments. From 1962 to 1968 she created photographic documentation for speech research projects at Haskins Laboratories in New York City. From 1968 to 1983, Wyman was the Chief Photographer in the Department of Pathology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1983 she again returned to free-lancing, and handled assignments for The New York Times, Gannett Newspapers, US Magazine, American Lawyer, Inc. Magazine, and other publications. Throughout her career, Wyman held numerous teaching positions and speaking assignments. Her photographs are in the collections of the New York Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Jewish Museum of New York, Fundación Municipal de Cultura in Valladolid, Spain, and other collections. She died July 13, 2019 at age 93.

“The camera has been the door through which I entered the lives of people I met. Despite the technical wonders of photography, I believe that a single camera, coupled to heart and mind, can still reveal the beauty of our fellow humans on their daily rounds.’ - Ida Wyman










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