David Attie studied with Alexey Brodovitch, who also trained Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and who first acquainted the artist with Truman Capote. Introducing this lost work to the public now, reveals an intriguing set of relationships and illuminates a particular moment in Brooklyn’s history.
Decades after the photographer’s passing, his son, Eli Attie, came across a manila envelope simply marked ‘Holiday, Capote, A3/58.’ Inside were negatives and contact sheets taken by his father that he’d never seen before. The unprinted negatives helped to fill in the story of the start of Attie’s successful career, and the surprising role that Truman Capote played in launching that career. The photographs were originally shot for Holiday magazine, which was publishing Truman Capote’s 1958 essay on living in Brooklyn. At Capote’s request, Attie was hired to illustrate the essay.
Ultimately four of Attie’s photographs were published as part of the Holiday magazine spread. The remainder –some 800 negatives from the Brooklyn shoot – were gathering dust. Among these were extraordinary portraits of Capote and W.E.B Du Bois, and images of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, once home to artists and writers, which has long since changed with the times. Many of these images were published for the first time last year in the Little Bookroom re-issue of the Capote essay “Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir.”
Now BHS is digging even deeper: with the help of Attie’s son Eli Attie, and widow Dotty Attie, the institution hosts the first show to include Attie’s original Brooklyn prints including the portraits of Capote and Du Bois. Also on display are three original prints of photographic montages that Attie created to illustrate the publication of Capote’s novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”; two original, signed Capote letters about that project; and an assortment of David Attie’s contact sheets with his original grease pencil markings. Of the 40 prints exhibited, 18 were prints by David Attie himself, which were discovered by his family members, and 22 are archival ink-jet prints from Attie’s original negatives.
Truman Capote’s Brooklyn
The Lost Photographs of David Attie
July 20, 2016 – July 1, 2017