Jerome Liebling, 1924 – 2011

Jerome_liebling_014_000-300x298 Randy Kennedy in the NYT:

Jerome Liebling, whose subtly powerful pictures and the lessons he drew from them influenced a generation of socially minded photographers and documentary filmmakers, died on Wednesday in Northampton, Mass. He was 87.

His death was announced by Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., where he taught for more than two decades.

Mr. Liebling was among a wave of pioneering photographers — including Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt and Gordon Parks — who took to the streets of New York in the 1930s and ’40s to make art by turning their cameras onto corners of urban life that had mostly been ignored by the photographers before them.

His experience as a child of the Depression growing up in Brooklyn, Mr. Liebling said, formed an impulse throughout his career to “figure out where the pain was, to show things that people wouldn’t see unless I was showing them.” Over a half-century much of his work depicted painful subjects far too directly for magazines or newspapers to show them: mental patients in state hospitals, cadavers used by New York medical students, blood-drenched workers at a Minnesota slaughterhouse.

Jerome Liebling was born in New York on April 16, 1924, the son of a waiter. After serving in the Army in North Africa and Europe during World War II, he returned to New York and studied art and design at Brooklyn College with the painter Ad Reinhardt, whose fledgling photography program provided Mr. Liebling with his first camera. He joined the Photo League, the socially minded photographers’ cooperative, and worked with Paul Strand, whose complex, hard-edged compositions exerted a strong early influence.