Streets of NY: Nancy & Retta Johnston

category: > Photography, < NYC Streets

written by: Jaap Proost

NEW YORK street photography is almost a genre of itself. The mix of rich and poor, black and white and locals and visitors that walk the streets of Manhattan gave some of the biggest names in photography inspiration to roam the streets. I already introduced some of these searchers of sidewalk scenes. This time: Nancy & Retta Johnston.

In the middle of concrete jungle of Manhattan there lies another jungle: Central Park. The sisters Nancy and Retta Johnston used the green of the grass, oaks, elms and maple trees as a background for their photographs. Together the sisters made a series of photo’s that resulted in the book ‘Central Park Country’.  The Sierra Club, an organization that studies and protects ‘wild places around the world’, published the book in 1968.

Nancy and Retta Johnston grew up in Kentucky. Because the two liked to work as a couple they were also known as Miss Cartier and Miss Bresson. In the book they give a somewhat romantic view of the park, with kids playing and grown-ups relaxing.

The photos were taken in the late sixties, in a time when there were great changes in society. Crime and grim in New York were rising. But the people of Sierra Club decided that there was no place book for the dark side of the park, where there are muggers and murderers. The foreword hopefully states: ‘If enough people want the Central Park that Nancy and Retta Johnston see, it will be like that, free of the things that do not need to happen in it.’






Click on the double squares in the lower right corner to see popout pictures

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