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Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York

Key to an understanding of American photography, history, documentaries and even Gotham itself, "Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League's New York" uses the iconic imagery of its subjects to tell of the short-lived but highly influential Photo League (1936-51). Responsible for some of the most memorable photos of the mid-20th century, the group politicized a fledgling medium and confronted issues still being discussed. The intelligent, enthusiastic docu is a feast of pictures; the opportunity to see them on a bigscreen may draw auds to the Los Angeles theatrical run of this highly specialized feature.

Key to an understanding of American photography, history, documentaries and even Gotham itself, “Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York” uses the iconic imagery of its subjects to tell of the short-lived but highly influential Photo League (1936-51). Responsible for some of the most memorable photos of the mid-20th century, the group politicized a fledgling medium and confronted issues still being discussed. The intelligent, enthusiastic docu is a feast of pictures; the opportunity to see them on a bigscreen may draw auds to the Los Angeles theatrical run of this highly specialized feature.

“Social change through photography” seems like a given now, but it was a revolutionary concept at the time of the league’s founding by Sid Grossman and Sol Libsohn. Grossman haunts the movie, his politics and aesthetic having provided the guiding ethos for a group that included — or championed — the likes of Eugene Atget, Weegee, Robert Capa, Ruth Orkin, Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott and Dorothea Lange. With narration by Campbell Scott, who enthuses without gushing, “Ordinary Miracles” casts the 1951 demise of the Photo League, a victim of the Red Scare, as the cultural calamity it was.

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Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York

Reviewed at Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, Nov. 21, 2019.