ORDINARY MIRACLES: THE PHOTO LEAGUE’S NEW YORK is a feature-length documentary film narrated by Campbell Scott, which tells the story of the rise and politically motivated fall of the Photo League, (1936–1951), which for fifteen years served as the center of the documentary movement in American photography at a time when the camera was held to be, in James Agee’s words, “the central instrument of our time.”
The Photo League’s membership roster reads like a Who’s Who of leading American and emigree photographers including Sid Grossman, Aaron Siskind, Jerome Liebling, Dan Weiner, Morris Engel, Walter Rosenblum, Weegee, Lisette Model and W. Eugene Smith. Directly inspired by Lewis Hine and the photographers of the Farm Security Administration and with expert guidance from photographers Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott and Beaumont Newhall, the Photo League’s collective portrait of urban life during these turbulent years is comparable to the indelible record of rural America created by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. Many FSA photographers, including Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott and John Vachon were also active members of the Photo League.
ORDINARY MIRACLES includes hundreds of images made by approximately sixty League photographers, fashioned into sequences designed around various subjects of League focus (Harlem, the Lower East Side, children at play, Coney Island, WWII). The previously under-reported contribution of Photo League trained war correspondents and combat cameramen who served in all branches of the armed services during WWII is rectified in a sequence devoted to the Photo League’s war. The rich soundtrack blends contemporary and vintage music: The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Django Reinhardt, The Andrews Sisters, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins and Philip Glass.
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