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Jerome Greenberg's Photography at Buffalo Niagara Visitors Center

"The Rag Man" (1950) by Jerome Greenberg, on display at the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Center.

Our Buffalo

Caught in mid-stride, in mid-century, the city walks. There is business as well as busyness in the scenes of city folk, the “pedestrians.” There is nostalgic comfort in white sidewall tires, in busty automotive fenders, their curved feminine aerodynes contrasting with the masculine straight edges of built edifices—the architectural hieroglyphs of character, purpose, intent.

Here are the snows of yesteryear, the rain slick streets, working people in winter coats, all caught in a moment of living by Jerome Greenberg’s Kodak 35. Big names writ large in glittering bulbs, famous movie stars date the age: Harlow, Ladd, Hope, Crosby, “live on stage” Dennis Day. The cars less definitely dated—people kept them longer, possessions too—only buildings change: storefronts, window dressing, marquees…

The light weighs down heavy on cobbles, train tracks, on sagging whitewash, a passing steam engine, on “depleted housing stock.” White is not black in these finely etched portraits, the white shirt of the man in the “pork pie” hat surrounded by his house “ashambled.” The stain of dwelling on dwelling. Buffalo’s “signature” snow—on rooftops, cartops—flickers as the rag man’s horse stands poised to take a step into history.

Greenberg catches the lakeboats moored like giant river horses to the grain elevators quay along the Ships Canal. His elbow, steady on the driver’s side window post, as he holds his camera, rests invisible at the traffic light. His subjects are all given a strong measure of fact: Buffalo at dusk, in the gloaming afterglow.

j. tim raymon

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