Alen MacWeeney (b. 1939, Dublin) began his photography career in Ireland working as a press photographer and freelancing for fashion magazines, before moving to New York City in 1961 to be an assistant for the celebrated photographer Richard Avedon. Despite his early work in the worlds of fashion and studio photography, MacWeeney’s eye has always been drawn more to the everyday moment. In the late 1970s, he regularly rode the subway between his East Village apartment and locations uptown with his Leica M4 camera in hand, taking photographs along the way. He was initially dissatisfied with the darkroom results, until he noticed one photograph lying on top of another. The accidental resulting image, says MacWeeney, “took on a life of its own. It looked better than the picture on the left or the picture on the right […] the join made a total picture.”
This exhibition features 42 diptychs from the series New York Subways 1977, in which MacWeeney adjoins two images that share formal similarities or emotional resonances to create subtle and surprising new relationships of movement, gazes, bodies, and architecture. Along with the original gelatin silver diptychs, this exhibition also features two later large-format prints and a unique artist’s book published by MacWeeney and acquired by The New York Public Library in 2023. Taken together, this series presents the New York subway system in 1977 as an extraordinary space of contradictions, just as it is today: millions of people thrust together, each navigating through their private lives in a very public space.
New York Subways 1977
23 September 2023 – 7 January 2024
Print Gallery in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building