Skip to content
Chalk Games, 1959

Chalk Games, 1959

Ar­thur Leipzig (1918-2014) was born in Brooklyn, New York. He began his career in photography when he enrolled in a class with the Photo League in 1941. Initially attracted by the school’s low darkroom fees, he was convinced that he wanted to seriously pursue documentary photography within two weeks of studying with its founder, Sid Grossman. Leipzig was an active member of the Photo League until 1949, learning from the work of Paul Strand and W. Eugene Smith. In 1942, he became a staff photographer for the newspaper PM, a liberal publication that used photography in abundance on its pages and allowed its photographers free reign. After the newspaper folded in 1946, Leipzig worked for a brief stint at International News Photos before beginning a successful career in freelance photojournalism, traveling on assignments around the world and contributing to such periodicals as The Sunday New York Times, This Week, Fortune, Look, LIFE, and Parade.

Leipzig shot thousands of rolls of film over five decades, producing beautifully constructed yet socially powerful photographs that take a sincere look at street life.  Among the most memorable are photo essays on children’s street games, city workers atop the Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island, and V-Day.  Leipzig candidly captured New York’s favorite personalities as Louis Prima, W.C. Handy and Mayor La Guardia.  His assignment locales outside of New York City included Peru, Sudan, and the Sahara, as well as places closer to home like West Virginia, Kansas and Jones Beach.

Acclaimed as a sensitive and impassioned documentary photographer, Arthur Leipzig has always directed his camera toward the human condition and his deep love of people, shooting in a straightforward fashion, never forcing the moment but rather allowing a human story to transform simply and spontaneously.  As a result, his photographs depict the human community with great intimacy and dynamic energy.

Leipzig has been included in many museum group exhibitions, most notably "New Faces" (1946) and "Family of Man" (1955) at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Photography as a Fine Art" (1961-62). His solo exhibitions include: "Growing Up in New York: Photographs by Arthur Leipzig" at the Museum of the City of New York (1996), and “Arthur Leipzig: A Tribute to Influence” at the Columbus Museum of Art (2005). His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Jewish Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the International Center of Photography, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, among others.

Leipzig’s honors include the National Urban League Photography Award, several annual Art Directors Awards, and two Long Island University Trustees Awards for Scholarly Achievement. He was the recipient of the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art Photography in 2004. Additionally, Leipzig shared his talent and passion for photography by teaching at Long Island University for nearly three decades, where he became Professor Emeritus.