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Frederick Kelly Photograph Collection PR 246

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 04, 2019
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

The Frederick Kelly Photograph Collection spans the period from 1959-1976 and contains 250 black and white silver gelatin photographs, primarily taken in New York City. Photographs are grouped by geographical location, as indicated on the verso by Kelly, or by subject if exact location is not known. Kelly fastidiously documented most of the photographs on their verso with a date, title, type of camera used, and shutter speed and light information.

Kelly appears to have been interested in the myriad different characters that mark the fabric of urban life. In addition to people going to and from work and shopping, his photographs pay attention to homeless people, nuns, newsstands and street peddlers, street preachers, street musicians, and parades. Two female Macy's employees are shown on strike, walking with sandwich boards printed with their complaints. People of all ages lounge on benches, read newspapers, feed pigeons, window shop, chat, hurry across the street, and relax in parks.

Most of the photographs of people are candid; the subjects do not appear to have known their picture was being taken. A few photographs taken inside subway cars are the prime example of this; the passengers are unaware of the camera, and are captured sleeping, crocheting, and lost in thought among the crowds. In general, this quality lends these photographs a documentary air, and allows the views of the city to appear lived in and fresh.

The majority of the images were taken in Washington Square Park and Central Park, where Kelly, in his mid-to-late-60s when these photographs were taken, documented the colorful gatherings of young people. Photographs of Washington Square mainly involve young people playing music - on the guitar, banjo, and drums - singing, and relaxing together. One image of musicians is titled "Beat Generation." The photographs show both white and African American musicians and crowd members. One photograph shows several women students studying together on the grass. Other views of Greenwich Village include stores along Bleecker Street, West 4th Street, and an art studio on MacDougal Street.

The photographs of Central Park were mostly taken on two weekends in January and March of 1967. Crowds of young people play music, dance, ride bicycles, buy balloons, and visit the zoo. Several of the March 26 photos are titled "be-in." Horse-drawn tourist carriages are also shown driving in the park and down Fifth Avenue.

In addition to people, Kelly paid attention to the architecture of the city. Some of his views of buildings are decidedly artistic, some dead-on straight shots, and some also designed to show how buildings are experienced and used by city dwellers. Exteriors of buildings shown include the Empire State Building, St. Bartholomew's Church, the post office on Eighth Avenue, and the First National City bank building. Photographs of building interiors show Grand Central Station, Pennsylvania Station, and mannequins posed inside stores, including Lord & Taylor. Restaurants pictured are mostly cafes, some outdoor, and include Astor Cafeteria, Topp's, Shelley's Coffee Shop, the Waldorf Cafeteria, and Bidford's.

A few photographs of other cities include views of Philadelphia, PA, Norfolk, VA, and Washington, D.C. (including views of the Kennedy Center, the Watergate Hotel, and a 1961 Peace Concert on the Mall.)