Keith de Lellis Gallery presents an exhibition of two American documentary photographers: Wayne Miller and Marvin E. Newman. In the early days of their careers, both men endeavored to document Chicago’s black communities in the wakes of the Great Migration and World War II. Miller received two consecutive Guggenheim fellowships (1946–1948) to photograph his series “The Way of Life of the Northern Negro,” which would later be published as a book: Chicago’s South Side. Newman’s series was completed while he pursued a master’s degree in photography at Chicago’s Institute of Design.
Both photographers were skilled at earning a level of trust from their subjects that allowed them to become flies on the wall to a range of events and experiences. While many migrants were struggling to transition from the rural South to industrial Chicago, their hardships are far from the sole focus of these photographs. On the contrary, these images, most often candid, capture moments of intimacy, joy, sadness, and bravado in equal measure. The photographs are full of passion and hope without dismissing the realities of segregation and economic disparity. In these photographs, we see lovers embrace, patrons sway to the music in night clubs, children play in the streets, and men shoot pool. Miller wrote of his vision for his series: “We may differ in race, color, language, wealth, and politics. But look at what we all have in common – dreams, laughter, tears, pride, the comfort of home, the hunger for love.”
Wayne Miller (1918–2013) studied photography at the Art Center School of Los Angeles. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy at the start World War II, Miller worked in Edward Steichen’s Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, in which he was notably one of the first photographers to document the destruction of Hiroshima. He returned to Chicago to photograph as a freelancer after the war. After the completion of his featured series, the artist went on to teach at the Institute of Design, photograph for Life, and assist Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art as he curated the pivotal exhibition, The Family of Man. Miller joined Magnum Photos in 1958 and served as president from 1962 through 1966.
A native New Yorker, Marvin E. Newman (b. 1927) began his studies in photography at Brooklyn College. The artist was briefly a member of New York’s Photo League before moving to Chicago in 1949, where he studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design. A noted sports photographer, Newman covered the 1960 Rome Olympics and the same year’s World Series. Newman’s work has been featured in Life, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and many other publications, and has been exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum, and more. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the George Eastman Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the International Center for Photography.
Wayne Miller and Marvin E. Newman’s photographs of mid-century Chicago will be on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through November 9, 2019.