Over the years, Marvin Newman has repeatedly fixated on everything from old women’s calves and men sprawled out on park benches, to sewer covers and mannequin heads sporting hats.
“I saw one or two and thought, ‘Gee whiz, this really could be something so special if you really zero in on it,’ ” he said. “You would see something happening, and you knew that the repetition of it could take it beyond just the simple photograph. When you see multiples together, it just adds to the fact, and it becomes better.”
He has thought a lot about the role of series in photography, starting with his master’s thesis — one of the first of its kind — while studying at the Institute of Design in Chicago with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. One of his earliest series featured apparition-like shadows on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
“I photographed the people coming at me,” he said of the willowy silhouettes of nuns and children, which he turned upside down for an ethereal effect. “The sidewalk lines give a very good feeling of composition; it takes it a little bit beyond just a simple shadow on a white surface.”
“Sequentially Sought,” an exhibition now at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in Manhattan, showcases his tender and sometimes tongue-in-cheek take on 1950s New York and Chicago. The images range from his black-and-white photos of mannequins to color photos of the Coney Island boardwalk in the winter (which fueled his breakout as a color photographer).