Ralph Weiss photographs
Language of Materials
The collection includes 76 black and white, silver gelatin photographs taken by Ralph Weiss (1931-2015). 63 of the photos center on New York City's urban landscape and street scenes. 13 are nature scenes, likely from the Catskills region.
Biographical / Historical
Photographer Ralph Weiss (1931-2015) was born in New York City and, after spending several years away at college, in the military, and traveling abroad, settled in the 1960s in an apartment in Manhattan's Inwood section, where he lived the rest of his life. That apartment served as Weiss's darkroom and as a classroom for weekly photography workshops he ran. Weiss's photographs ranged from nature scenes in the Palisades, Catskills, and local surroundings to the urban landscape and the peopled street scenes of New York. Through the 1960s and into the early 1980s, Weiss exhibited his work in galleries and it appeared in various published forms. In the 1980s, Weiss scaled back his public exposure and concentrated his efforts on making photographs, developing prints, and sharing them with small groups. His photographs are held by a number of institutions in addition to New-York Historical, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum and Museum of the City of New York.
(The above note was abstracted from a biographical sketch and lists of Weiss's exhibitions, publications, etc. included by the donor with the collection.)
Scope and Contents
The collection includes 76 black and white, gelatin silver photographs taken by Ralph Weiss. These include:
13 8x11 inch photographs of natural landscapes. Two of these are identified as Kaaterskill Gorge and Katterskill Clove, and the others are likely to be of scenes from the Catskills as well. Views are of waterfalls (one frozen), ponds, rock formations, gorges, outlooks, fields, and a cow pasture. Most are signed and dated between January 1988 and August 1993.
63 photographs of New York City, 25 of which tend to emphasize the people of the city and 38 of which tend to emphasize the details of the city's built environment, often conveying a sense of the intersection of the city's inhabitants with their surroundings. 16 of these photos are roughly 8x11 inches, 43 are roughly 14x11 inches, and 4 are matted (14x11 inches). 7 of these photos are signed and dated from 2006. The others are undated, but have Weiss's stamp.
Images of people include pedestrians; those sleeping on sidewalks, benches, and stoops; posing for the photographer; framed by graffiti covered or gritty walls; children playing, including in the spray of a fire hydrant; and the like. Images of the built environment include grated windows, fire escapes, graffiti covered doors and walls, storefronts (one with a child alone in a stroller), and the like. A sense of irony appears at times, such as an image of a lawn chair on the sidewalk and a sleek sportscar amid the grittiness. Several of the photographs dwell on the details of trash and litter and the collages they create. Collectively, the images can tend to convey a sense of the city as a harsh environment, yet populated with residents that have adapted to their setting to thrive in its particular opportunities for play, work, relaxation, socialization, and everyday life.
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The collection should be cited as: Ralph Weiss photographs, PR 420, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.
Credit line: "Gift of Christine Yost"
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Christine Yost, 2020.
About this Guide
Processed by archivist Larry Weimer, May 2021.