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Mulberry Street, c.1948

Mulberry Street, c.1948

Sid Grossman (1913-1955) was born in New York.  During his high school years in the Bronx he became an avid photographer and joined the Camera Club. In 1936, with the photographer, Sol Libsohn, he founded the Photo League whose purpose was to use and promote photography as a tool to effect social change. The League offered lectures and classes, provided darkrooms, produced photographic exhibitions and projects and published a monthly bulletin called Photo Notes. As the director and teacher at the League, Grossman had a tremendous influence on a large number of students who studied with him including Weegee, Lisette Model, Leon Levinstein, Ruth Orkin, Arthur Leipzig, Rebecca Lepkoff and numerous others. The Photo League ceased to function in 1951 when some of its members were unjustly accused of participating in subversive political activities by Joseph McCarthy in his campaign against “anti-American activity.”

During World War II Grossman's projects were focused on the war effort, and a War Production Group headed by Grossman in 1942-1943, photographed Red Cross activities, civilian defense, student volunteers doing farm work, and the care of young children. Grossman joined the army in 1943 and was stationed in Panama. During 1945 he photographed the Black Christ festival in Portobello, Panama, and traveled to Guatemala and the Galapagos Islands.

Grossman enjoyed his most productive years as a photographer just after World War II. He photographed Coney Island in the summers of 1947 and 1948 and the San Gennaro festival on Mulberry Street in Manhattan's Little Italy in 1948.

Grossman spent the summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts after 1949, where he studied painting with Hans Hofmann and opened a school of photography. He also taught privately in New York during the winter months; among his students was Lisette Model, who enrolled with him in part as a gesture of support. His later work focused on the landscape and people of Cape Cod and was published posthumously in the 1959 book entitled, Journey to the Cape.