Simpson Kalisher
Railroad Men
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the critics’ OBSERVATIONS

about The Alienated Photographer

(Coinciding with the publication of The Alienated Photographer, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston mounted an exhibition of prints from the book and hosted an event where Simpson Kalisher was present to sign books. This was followed later by an exhibition and book signing at the Keith deLellis Gallery in New York.)
“MFAH curator Anne Wilkes Tucker has done it again with Simpson Kalisher’s The Alienated Photographer, a collection of riveting black-and-white photos taken mostly in the 1950s and 1960s…Kalisher, 85, belongs to a generation of American street photographers whose snapshot aesthetic captured a shifting social landscape with striking immediacy.”                                                                                                 Douglas Britt, Houston Chronicle October 11, 2011

 

“Kalisher (Railroad Men) began his career as a photojournalist in 1948 and eventually embraced photography as an art form independent of journalism. Most of the 63 black-and-white images included here show people on the streets of New York City in the 1960s. The book opens with a brief conversational introduction by art critic Luc Sante and is thereafter devoted entirely to the images… Kalisher shows how a photographer can control the entire creative process by producing images and designing a book as a total work of art. Libraries with large photographic collections will want to add this.”
Valerie Nye, Sante Fe University, Library Journal, July 15, 2011

 

“Kalisher’s images are razor-sharp and shrewdly graphic, the epitome of the 1950s and 1960s, sequenced here with sophistication, they flesh out issues of the time: race, class, politics, religion, anxiety, alienation.”
Peter C. Bunnell, Professor of the History of Photography, Emeritus, Princeton University

 

“Simpson Kalisher (b. 1926) is one of the street photographers who made midtown Manhattan as critical a site for mid-20th-century photography as the Forest of Arden was for Shakespearean comedy… Not all of Mr. Kalisher’s pictures were taken in New York, but his wry humor travels with him.”
William Meyers, Wall Street Journal October 22, 2011

 

“”Kalisher… can frame a scene in any of a hundred ways according to the emotional substance at hand–here he is decorous and symetrical, there bumptions and from-the-hip. His humor is nearly always present… These pictures deliver the truth about a time and a place, lastngly so, with an echo that will continue to resound. This book deserves the widest possible audience.”
Luc Sante, from the Introduction

 

“As I walked through the (museum) I became all too aware that the activity I was participating in was the one where you look at ART… I don’t want to be reminded that that is what I am doing. What I want to do is to become so enveloped in the experience that I feel I am a part of it, and by connecting with the artwork… Which all leads me to how happy I was to travel down to the lower level of the Law Building and see Simpson Kalisher: The Alienated Photographer.. In the presence of this show, I fouNd the something “I know not what” that I had been looking for all along, for at last I felt fully engaged.”
Beth Secor, Glasstire, July 7, 2011

 

“This is only the venerable photojournalist Simpson Kalisher’s third book… it should solidify his reputation as one of the indispensable street photographers. .. Kalisher locates unintentional drama in the eveyday, and the result is startling art.”                                                                   Matt Damsker, E-Photo Newsletter, February 28, 2012

 

about Propaganda and other Photographs

“Simpson Kalisher …is quite as much of an “art” photographer as, say, Robert Frank. Kalisher’s second book, Propaganda is.. social comment, if you like. Plenty of wit and plenty of vitriol. A dark look at our parlous republic. Dark, but not sour. There is an admirable quiet and solemnity in the way Simpson Kalisher sees things. What make me again thinkk of Robert Frank is the fact that Kalisher is never some tub thumping Marxist hack. He is never short on pictorial values, though this is getting to be a sin in some critical quartrrs…”
Jonathan Williams, Contemporary Photographers, St. Martins Press (New York, 1982

 

“Mr. Kalisher is the author of …. “Propaganda and other Photographs”….. (and)  With the political implications in the choice of so loaded a word as a title, as well as the radical-looking typeface in which it is set, viewers might be excused for taking Mr. Kalisher for a grass-roots social realist. Indeed, he seems to want them to do so. But to talk with him is to suspect him of motivations even more manipulative, certainly more complicated and a little playful.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Vivian Raynor, New York Times, Sunday, August 24, 1980

 

about Railroad Men

“The juxtaposition of text and pictures is done with respect and understanding. The result is matched only by Paul Strand’s and Cesare Zavattini’s Un Paese… Some of the stories of Railroad Men are like lyrics or prose ballads which, with the photographer’s irreproachable placement and his sensibility for rhythms, lengths and sequence, do much to develop and intensify the reminiscent and entirely photograpic character of this book.”
Hugh Edwards (Curator of Prints & Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago) Infinity, March 1962

 

“The books is certainly more than a collection of authentic pictures, beautifully photographed with a simplicity which almost hurts. It contains anecdotes, told my the railroad men, about the railroad, assembled with a sense of reverence and scattered throughout the pages as a sort of background music to the visual theme. I cannot remember seeing another picture book which makes its quiet statement with more satisfaction and conviction.”
Norman Hall (editor) Photography (UK) April 1962

 

Etcetera

“‘Gestures and Windows’ a far ranging show at the Museum of Modern Art, offers a varied selection in which photographers use the vocabulary of gestures to interpret personality or as formal elements.”

“In selecting works for the show, Mr. Galassi has cast his net widely, and came up with some welcome catches. Who is that fashionably dressed woman walking through the gray crowd on a New York sidewalk in Simpson Kalisher’s 1961 photograph? With an impossibly delicate gesture she presses her clenched hand, sheathed in a pale leather glove,oher chest as if it were a spiral brooch.”
Charles Hagan, New York Times, January 28, 1994
“in the Danziger… Mr.Kalisher’s pictures are early examples of the kind of street photography that came to prominence in the late 60’s, recording small but mysterious vignettes of city life. An image from around 1948, for example, shows a woman’s leg as she strides down the street; in an uncanny detail, the seam of her stocking lines up with a crease in the sidewalk”:
Charles Hagan, New York Times, December 29, 1995
“Keith deLellis Gallery”

“Photography continues to be an evergrowing presence in New York. While there are numerous opportunities to see the work of young photographers, museums and galleries tend to emphasize the work of early and mid-20th century artists. This show is an exception. Simpson Kalisher may not have the same name recognition as Robert Frank or Garry Winogrand (his contemporaries) or Walker Evans (their predecessor) but his work is no less memorable.”

“There is, for example an image of the interior of a bus that recalls Daumier’s Third Class Carriage. Kalisher, however, goes one step further than Daumier in drawing attention to the settings’ undercurrent of racial disparity. In another picture he captures the poetic nuance of a rainy day in New York of 1959. A young girl is seen in a doorway, her arm extended; perhaps it has stopped raining. Indeed, much of what Kalisher chooses to focus on here is what we typically take for granted.”
Leslie Ava Shaw, The New York Art World, January 2001