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Lisette Model

Sammy's, New York
c. 1940–1944, printed 1950s

Not on view

Date
c. 1940–1944, printed 1950s

Classification
Photographs

Medium
Gelatin silver print

Dimensions
Overall: 13 3/4 × 10 13/16in. (34.9 × 27.5 cm)

Accession number
97.98.12

Edition
Vintage

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate

In her photographs, Lisette Model captured the abnormal, the marginal, and sometimes the grotesque. Sammy’s, the only Bowery saloon with a cabaret license in the early 1940s, offered her—and fellow photographer Weegee—a location in which to shoot colorful and fascinating subjects. The club’s bawdy floor-show attracted both the uptown elite and the downtown have-nots. In this image, Model focuses in on a sailor and a woman absorbed in an intimate exchange. The theatrical light on their faces, the camera’s low vantage point, and the extremely close framing—all characteristic of Model’s work—escalate the scene’s moody intensity. A passing moment, caught and registered, is transformed into a persistent, ambiguous image. “We photograph not only what we know but also what we don’t know,” Model once said. “What counts is sincerity, realism, and truth. The art of the split second is my means of exploring.”  




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