'Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League's New York' is the story of the Photo League (1936-1951), which for fifteen years was 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'. Featuring little-known examples of the work of fifty of the Photo League's leading photographers and supplemented with interviews with still feisty (and active) League veterans, the film features a captivating, 'period' musical score and an incisive narration read by Campbell Scott. 'Ordinary Miracles' is a tribute to the high purpose of photography, a remarkable group and an unmatched panorama of urban life in the neighborhoods of New York City during the 1930's and 40's. Written by
Daniel Allentuck and Nina Rosenblum
Its the images that star here, and they are wonderful
As a documentary this is a fairly straightforward, even dry at times, telling of the history of The Photo League. It was a photography center and school in New York that fostered and help train some of America's greatest photographers in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, especially (but not only) those who worked in a documentary style capturing the humanity, struggles and dignity of the poor and working class in the depression, through World War II and beyond. It's an interesting, sometimes moving story of artists fighting to change the world, and inspire others.
But its real strength lies in the images themselves. The bulk of the film is spent looking at the works of these photographers which are overflowing with emotion, beautiful aesthetic qualities and the reminder that photography is a special and magical art that can capture a moment in time, and allow us to really take it in -- to feel that we are there -- like no other. Whether funny, sad, horrifying or inspiring you realize that the people in these photos may no longer be with us, but that moment that kiss, that loss while watching a burning building that holds your children, that moment of kids playing together on the streets of New York has been preserved through a talented eye that picked just the right moment, just the right light and framing to let you feel a sense of presence and understanding in a way that the fast pace of life too rarely allows.
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