press release

NEW YORK, JUNE 2002––Two previously unpublished albums of photographs taken in Queens––made in the early 1940s by Swiss-born photographer and filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt (1914–1999)––are brought together publicly for the first time in this exhibition. An Afternoon in Astoria (1940) and A Walk through Astoria and Other Places in Queens (1943) present photographs that are both uncelebrated and unforgettable within a delicately directed sequence, evoking the intersection of photography and filmmaking in Burckhardt’s work. Burckhardt’s affection for Queens and its inhabitants is evident, yet his artistic sophistication steers clear of sentimentality. The exhibition is organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Associate Curator, Research and Collections, Department of Photography.

Thirty-three pages from the two albums will be on view, revealing the simple, understated beauty of Burckhardt’s work as well as his talent for orchestrating the size and placement of his still photographs to create narrative scenes. The photographs, all untitled, are dry-mounted onto neutral gray board and bound together—the overall effect is modest and personal.

The poet and dance critic Edwin Denby was a lifelong friend of Burckhardt’s; inspired by his photographs, he wrote a number of sonnets to accompany them. Five of these poems are pasted into the album A Walk through Astoria and Other Places in Queens and are also included in the exhibition, reproduced alongside the photographs.

The Museum purchased An Afternoon in Astoria from Burckhardt in 1993. On the occasion of this exhibition and in celebration of the opening of MoMA QNS, the Museum has published the album, bringing it to an audience beyond the photographer, his family, and his friends for the first time.

A Walk through Astoria and Other Places in Queens
Photographs by Rudy Burckhardt
Kurator: Sarah Hermanson Meister