At a Photo League Meeting, 1949 — Lost and Found Photographs

Photojournalist Dan Weiner discussing his work at a Photo League meeting, 1949

Now that I’m 81, I often say to my wife Judith, “There’s nothing wrong with my memory, I just forgot where I put it!” So when I discovered some negatives from a Photo League meeting I attended 63 years ago buried in a box, I tried to conjure up my eighteen-year-old’s memory and put a name to these faces. Alas, I’ve only come up with a few so far. I’m calling on any Photo League buffs to help me out here!

What I certainly do remember was how exciting it was to attend the bi-weekly meetings where famous and unknown photographers from around the country the world gathered to share their images and their ideas. At 18, it’s likely I was the youngest person in the room at meetings. The speaker at my first meeting was the legendary Paul Strand — one of the key people credited for really establishing photography as a legitimate art form.

I was quite naïve politically at the time and I first started going to meetings shortly after the U.S. Attorney’s office blacklisted the League in 1947. Undoubtedly some of my political views were formed by the Photo League’s environment. My photographic eye was already attuned to my own journey of bearing witness to the life around me and the movement toward humanistic social commentary was a part of my innate sensibility. Rubbing shoulders with fellow photographers headed in a kindred direction and getting caught up in the debates and discussions within the group was almost as stimulating as the photography.

Here are a few of the treasures from my lost and found box, with commentary where applicable. I hope anyone out there who can help identify other faces here will send through comments for the rest of us to see!

Jacob Deschin was the camera editor for the New York Times for nearly thirty years. He was one of the best known photography writers at the time. I considered him a friend and will be writing about him in future posts. I was grateful that he always announced my classes in the New York Times insuring me a steady flow of students over the years! I don’t know who is sitting in front of him.
Dan Weiner is unmistakable – tweed jackets and a pipe! I will always remember him like this. Dan was a photography instructor in the Air Force during WWII, and when he got out he joined the Photo League, later picking up commercial work for Fortune, LOOK and other magazines. His wife Sandra, was also in the Photo League.

Each meeting featured a photographer sharing and discussing their work with the assembled group. Here Jacob Deschin has jumped into the discussion, but who is the woman showing her work? Could this be Helen Levitt? Nancy Newhall?
The Photo League was a meeting ground for people from all backgrounds and cultures who were finding common ground in the desire to raise consciousness about social conditions through the medium of photography. I’d love to put names to some of these faces. Sitting fourth from the left was Lew Parella, editor at U.S. Camera.

Here are a few more. I’m awaiting word from anyone out there who can help identify these faces. Please pass this blog along to others who might know. I might just find a bunch more of these in a box somewhere!

Unidentified Photo League members, 1949
Unidentified Photo League members, 1949
Unidentified Photo League member, 1949
Unidentified Photo League members, 1949

1 comment

  1. John Edwin Mason

    Thanks very much for this fascinating post and for the wonderful photos. It’s good to see what an ordinary meeting of the League looked like.

    I’m especially intrigued by the substantial number of African-Americans who appear in your photos. I wonder… Was this common at League events?

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