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Sid Kaplan: Photography Keeping Vanishing New York Alive

By Ruth Dunn on May 7th 2013

Since he was a teenager, Sid Kaplan, master black-and-white printer and photographer, has been using his camera to capture what he calls “the vanishing New York”. Although his name may not be familiar to many outside his circle of students and friends, Kaplan’s stunning and intriguing images of New York are valuable insights into this city and they are also beautiful works of art.

Kaplan has been photographing New York for the last 60 years, during which time he also started teaching darkroom printing at the School of Visual Arts, taking photographs of famous musicians and making many of Robert Frank’s, Louis Stettner’s and Cornell Capa’s prints.

Perhaps the main reason Kaplan is not well known for his work is that he is too caught up in the photographic process to self promote. He says:

“I was more interested in taking pictures, and most of the time, I just didn’t pursue it. I don’t like that whole system. Besides, to publish a book you have to be able to schmooze, and I just don’t have the technique.”

Halloween, Time Square NYC 1954. Photograph by Sid Kaplan.

Halloween, Time Square NYC 1954. Photograph by Sid Kaplan.

Kaplan has chronicled the continual urban cycle of destruction and creation in New York as the old gives way to the new. His main focus during the last 60 years has been focusing on capturing what is being lost. Kaplan says he had no idea what to do with the photos, “except that I knew that if I didn’t take pictures of it, it’s going to be gone and I’m not going to get another chance.”

If you are lucky enough to be in Manhattan over the next 4 days you can catch the end of Kapan’s exhibition “The Last of a Vanishing Breed” at 25CPW gallery.


Ruth is a Brisbane based journalist specialising in articles about visual art, photography, design and fashion. Co-founder of Raw Ink magazine, she enjoys uncovering interesting and unique events, issues and people to write about.

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