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Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs

  • Kind of Object:
    Photobook
  • Name:
    Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs

    Word Count: 7

  • Creator (Person):
    Mario Bucovich
  • Year Start:
    1937
  • Year End:
    1937
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    M.B. Publishing, 12 East 41st Street, Midtown Manhattan, New York, US

  • Language:
    English
  • Size:

    23 x 30 cm (9 x 12 inch)

  • City:
    New York City (US)
  • Introduction:

    Manhattan Magic is a photobook which was published in 1937 by the German émigré photographer Mario Bucovich in New York City.

    Word Count: 20

  • Content:

    Mario Bucovich’s photobook begins with a short introduction where he describes his feelings of ambivalence towards the city, contextualising New York’s emigration history. Through these feelings and his experiences in the metropolis, he tries to pin down the fascination of New York: “It’s not only the greatest city in the world, but also the only modern city built from entirely new conceptions. Besides being an expression of a new architectural art and a new theory of city planning, it is a reflection of new beliefs and a new philosophy. The collective will, in the short span of three centuries, has erected the most fabulous city known to man. Our few records on Babylon give only an obscure vision of that city.” (Bucovich 1937) He continues, describing the new-erected skyscrapers as the “tremendous force of a new and daring dream; of a granite-hard human will seeking new forms of expression; of perfect technical skill previously unknown and of unlimited means, prodigally placed at the disposal of new visions of men” (Bucovich 1937, 2).

    In its 85 photographs by Bucovich and eight by Josef Rudzicka, the photobook can be read as a journey through New York, focusing on the streets, the skyscrapers and other buildings of the city. It begins with a foggy water view – probably taken in the morning – with a wooden pillar in the foreground and a steamer on the horizon. With the caption Off Manhattan, the first image not only represents the start of the day, but also provides an entry point for the virtual city tour in the following pages. The second image continues with a sunrise skyline view of Lower Manhattan captured from the Standish Arms Hotel in Brooklyn. After several pages it becomes clear, that the fascination articulated in the introduction is also visible in the images.

    Analysing the photographs and locating where they were taken on a map – although the first images are located in the south of Manhattan and follow with hints to the east and west, towards the north of Manhattan – it becomes apparent that the photographs do not really follow a geographical route and narrative through New York. Bucovich works with matching pairs of similarly themed geographical and visual motifs, as for example the central stations (Bucovich 1937, 46–47) or the grids of the Brooklyn Bridge (Bucovich 1937, 28–29). Often the photographs were taken from elevated positions, demonstrating that Bucovich had access to the higher floors and rooftop terraces of buildings and hotels. The elevated perspective creates a wider spatial view overlooking the buildings and streets, emphasising the proportions of architecture and people. The elevated location of the photographer is frequently mentioned in the captions; Looking from the 17th floor of the Irving Tower at No. 1 Wall Street. In the center is the Singer Building, forty-five stories high, and in 1910 the highest tower in Manhattan (Bucovich 1937, 30). In most cases, the caption contains exact details of where and in which direction the photograph was taken and which buildings can be seen. Besides dates and historical information, the buildings are often described in such superlative terms as "highest", "oldest", "first" or as being the world’s largest or tallest. Thus, the photobook reads like a city guidebook to the superlative buildings of New York, focusing on skyscrapers, historical houses, theatres, hotels, libraries and the urban infrastructure of the metropolis, where people do not appear in individual portraits, but in clusters and groups as inhabitants of the streets, their size in stark contrast to that of the skyscrapers.

    The photographs include day and night shots and are technically accurate and straightforward images. Bucovich plays with light and shadow, creating in some examples well-arranged light-dark contrasts. This can be seen, for example, in his photograph of the City Hall columns (Bucovich 1937, 32) taken in sunshine so that their shadows on the tiles show up in steep perspectives and in the fallen line with the building, or in another photograph (Bucovich 1937, 18) the shadow cast by a skyscraper directly on the City Service Building. The aesthetic of the images owes much to the stylistic practices of the New Vision of the 1920s in Germany, where Bucovich lived and worked as a photographer before his emigration to Spain and London during the 1930s. The progressive character of the images is reflected in the layout and format of the book. The layout is well arranged and all images are positioned in portrait format in a minimalist and straight-line arrangement. Each photo is aligned with either the upper or lower edge of the page and flush with the outer edge, with a short caption either above or below the picture. With its 23x30 cm (9x12 inch) format, spiral binding and soft cover, the book is both light and a handy size and reminds with the binding on a notebook or calendar. This formal and modern design can also be found in other photobooks of the time; it was used by the French publishing house Art et Métiers Graphiques, for example, for Brassaï’s Paris de nuit (Art et Métiers Graphiques, 1932) and the special issue Photographie 1930.

    When Mario Bucovich arrived as an émigré in 1935 in New York, the city was not new to him as he had already lived there with his wife Marie Bucovich, employed as an engineer at the Otis Elevator Company from 1909 to 1910. When he returned in 1935, the city was completely transformed, with buildings like the Woolworth Building (1913), 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building (1930) and the Empire State Building (1931). Furthermore, Bucovich’s photobook on New York was not the first he had published, so he had experience of this art medium and printed format. In 1928 two photobooks in the Das Gesicht der Städte series were edited with photographs by Mario Bucovich: Berlin 1928 (Albertus, 1928) with a foreword by Alfred Döblin, and Paris (Albertus, 1928), with a foreword by Paul Morand and in which several images by the photographer Florence Henri were also reproduced. In 1935 he published the book Photographs. 100 Selected Prints (Hamilton Studies, 1935) which consists of a volume presenting a cross-section of his photographic work to date: cityscapes and landscapes from his Berlin years and his time in Spain, older portraits and recent photographs of members of the London upper class, which together reveal a certain objectification of his style.

    Before publishing Magic Manhattan during his exile in New York, Bucovich created Washington D.C. (M.B. Publishing Company, 1936) using a similar structure and spiral binding to the New York photobook. These two books were self-published by Mario Bucovich at his "M.B. Publishing Company” located at 12 East 41st Street and in close proximity to other publishers, magazines and photographic agencies, such as Black Star, PIX, Oceana Publications, Leco and many more in Midtown Manhattan. The cover price was $2, which compared well with other photobooks on the market, such as Fred Stein’s 5th Avenue, which sold for $4, and Chinatown U.S.A. by Elizabeth Coleman, which sold for $3.50. In 1936, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Midtown Manhattan was around $30 to $40 (Times Union, 10 October 1936). Bucovich’s two photobooks followed a well-balanced conceptual and aesthetic, as well economic, design, with the aim of making the volumes available to a broad public through a large print run and an attractive cover price.

    Mario Bucovich's photobooks reflect his peripatetic life and his intellectual network in Europe and America, concluding with his Oaxaca. Mexico photobook in 1942. He emigrated to Mexico in 1939. All his photobooks have in common that he renders each city as itself with its own specific architecture and urban history, personalising the buildings as its giant, iconic inhabitants, an approach that resonates with the architectural and urban city planning discussion of the 1930s. Magic Manhattan ends with an image of Broadway in north Manhattan, the iconic skyline taken from Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty.

    Word Count: 1292

  • Signature Image:
    Cover of Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing, 1937.
  • Media:
    First page of Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 8–9.
    “Looking from the 17th floor of the Irving Tower at No. 1 Wall Street. In the center is the Singer Building, forty-five stories high, and in 1910 the highest tower in Manhattan.” Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 30–31.
    Pennsylvania and Central Station in Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 46–47.
    The Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 28–29.
    City Hall columns and Woolworth Building in Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 32–33.
    Skyscrapers shadows with a view on 60 Wall street tower and Irving Trust Company in Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 18–19.
    Last page of Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1937, pp. 46–47.
    Cover of Washington D.C. by Mario Bucovich, M.B. Publishing Company, 1936.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Berkowitz, Michael and Todd Heidt. “The Life of Mario von Bucovich: Perils, pleasures, and pitfalls in the history of photography.” Photography & Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, 2017. UCL Discovery. Accessed 22 February 2021.

    Bucovich, Marion. Manhattan Magic. M.B. Publishing, 1937.

    Fernández, Horacio, editor. New York in Photobooks. RM Verlag, 2016.

    Jiménez, Belén García. “Florence Henri y la mujer ibicenca.” Imatge i turisme, special issue of Estudis Baleàrics, edited by Institut d’Estudis Baleàrics, no. 94–95, 2008, pp. 47–57.

    Köhn, Eckhardt. “Ich bin teuer.” Wer war Mario von Bucovich? (Fotofalle,1). Edition Luchs, 2014.

    Word Count: 90

  • Author:
    Helene Roth
  • Metropolis:
    New York
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Helene Roth. " Manhattan Magic. A collection of eighty-five photographs ." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2948/object/5140-9613248, last modified: 06-02-2022.
  • Mario Bucovich
    PhotographerEditor

    Only a few details are known of the life and career of émigré photographer and publisher Mario Bucovich, who, after emigrating to New York, published the photobooks Washington D.C. and Magic Manhattan.

    Word Count: 33

    Portrait of Mario Bucovich, around 1928 (Köhn 2014).
    Mario Bucovich, left, with Mrs. S. Kent Legare (Evening Star, 5 June 1938, p. 41).Cover of Esplai magazine, 9 April 1934, with photograph by Mario Bucovich.Cover of Esplai magazine, 12 August 1934, with photograph by Mario Bucovich.Advertisement for American Photo Suppliers Co in Mexico on color print series published in Popular Photography, November 1945, p. 86.Photo series (original in colour) on Leon Trotsky by Mario Bucovich published in St. Louis Post Dispatch, 14 January 1940, p. 69.
    New York
    New York
    BookPhotobook

    In 1932, after her remigration to Vienna, the Austrian journalist Ann Tizia Leitich published New York, an account of her life and writing experiences started as an emigrant in New York in the 1920s.

    Word Count: 33

    Book cover of New York , edited by Ann Tizia Leitich, Velhagen & Klasing, 1932 (Archive Helene Roth).
    Ruhepause bei den Grabsteinen der Trinity Church (image by Scherl); Auch ein Platz für Mittagsruhe (image by Jacobi, Berlin); Orangedrink nach heißer Bahnhfahrt (image by Ewing Galloway, N.Y); Ein Fünfcentstück öffnet die Drehtür zur Untergrundbahn (image by Ewing Galloway, N.Y), published in Leitich 1932, pp. 16–17 (Archive Helene Roth).Medical Center, die größte Klinik der Welt (am oberen Hudson) (image by Presse-Photo, Berlin); Tausendäugige Häuserfront (image by Jacobi, Berlin), New York, published in Leitich 1932, pp. 48–49 (Archive Helene Roth).Hafen-Romantik und Wolkenkratzer (image by Jacobi, Berlin) and Schönheit der Wolkenkratzer (image by E.O. Hoppé, Mauritius) in New York, published in Leitich 1932, pp. 14–15 (Archive Helene Roth).Das arme New York (image by Jacobi, Berlin); Trödelladen im Italienerviertel (image by Scherl) New York, published in Leitich 1932, pp. 56–57 (Archive Helene Roth).Dachgarten; Sitzplatz; Terrassengarten (images by Richard Averill Smith, New York), New York, published in Leitich 1932, pp. 38–39 (Archive Helene Roth).
    New York
    Chinatown U.S.A.
    Photobook

    Chinatown U.S.A. is a photobook published by the German émigré photographer Elizabeth Coleman in 1946 focusing on American-Chinese communities in New York and San Francisco.

    Word Count: 26

    Cover of Chinatown U.S.A., by Elizabeth Coleman (The John Day Company, 1946).
    Front page of Chinatown U.S.A, edited by Elizabeth Coleman, The John Day Company, 1946 (Archive Helene Roth)."Learning to read and write English in Public school ... and Chinese in Chinese school." Chinatown U.S.A., by Elizabeth Coleman (The John Day Company, 1946).Last page of Chinatown U.S.A., by Elizabeth Coleman (The John Day Company, 1946).Review of Chinatown U.S.A. in The Pittsburg Press, 25 August 1946, p. 46.Review of Chinatown U.S.A in Popular Photography, October 1946, p. 184.
    New York
    5th Avenue
    Photobook

    5th Avenue was the first photobook by Fred Stein and was created in 1947 with the publishing house Pantheon Books.

    Word Count: 19

    Cover of 5th Avenue photobook (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).
    First page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon, 1947) by Fred Stein.Last page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Cover of the French edition 5th Avenue (Querido, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Mixed articles and reviews on 5th Avenue photobook form Fred Stein's scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Page from Fred Stein’s scrapbook showing Pantheon Books Catalogue (Fall 1946, Spring 1947), which includes 5th Avenue (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Fritz H. Landshoff (of Querido Publishing House) by Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Kurt Wolff (of publishing house Pantheon Books) by Fred Stein, 1959 (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Pantheon Books
    Publishing House

    Pantheon Books was a publishing house founded in 1942 by the German émigré Kurt Wolff (1887–1963) and aimed at the exiled European community in New York.

    Word Count: 24

    Pantheon Books sign (© Fred Stein Archive).
    Cover of 5th Avenue photobook (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).First page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon, 1947) by Fred Stein.Last page of 5th Avenue (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).Page from Fred Stein’s scrapbook showing Pantheon Books Catalogue (Fall 1946, Spring 1947), which includes 5th Avenue (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement by Pantheon Books from Fred Stein’s scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Mixed articles and reviews on 5th Avenue photobook form Fred Stein's scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Kurt Wolff (of publishing house Pantheon Books) by Fred Stein, 1959 (© Fred Stein Archive).Cover of the French edition 5th Avenue (Querido, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Fred Stein
    PhotographerLawyer

    Always accompanied by his camera, the German émigré photographer Fred Stein discovered New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. His pictures provide an human and multifaceted view of the metropolis.

    Word Count: 31

    Fred Stein, Self-portrait, 1941 (© Fred Stein Archive).
    Fred Stein, El at Water Street, 1946 (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait Alvin Saunders Johnson by Fred Stein, New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection (© Fred Stein Archive). Children Photographs exhibition by Fred Stein, April 1947 (© Fred Stein Archive).Affidavit in Lieu of Passport (© Fred Stein Archive).Fred Stein, Anette Kolb, New York, 1945 (© Fred Stein Archive).Fritz Neugass. “The saga of the S.S. Winnipeg.” Modern Photography, July 1951, pp. 72–73 (Photo: Helene Roth).Black Star contract by Fred Stein, April 1, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).New York 1949 calendar by Fred Stein, Lumen Publisher (© Fred Stein Archive).Mixed articles and reviews on 5th Avenue photobook form Fred Stein's scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Fritz H. Landshoff (of Querido Publishing House) by Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Portrait of Kurt Wolff (of publishing house Pantheon Books) by Fred Stein, 1959 (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement by Pantheon Books from Fred Stein’s scrapbook (© Fred Stein Archive).Rapho Guillumette agency letter to Fred Stein, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Cover of 5th Avenue photobook (Pantheon Books, 1947) by Fred Stein (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    Elizabeth Coleman
    PhotographerWriterEditor

    The German émigré photographer Elizabeth Coleman emigrated in 1941 to New York, where she photographed and published the photobook Chinatown U.S.A..

    Word Count: 22

    Visa paper by Elizabeth Coleman. "Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965" (database with images, FamilySearch. © National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).
    New York
    Black Star Agency
    Photo Agency

    The German émigrés Kurt S(z)afranski, Ern(e)st Mayer and Kurt Kornfeld founded Black Star in 1936. The photo agency established was a well-run networking institution in New York.

    Word Count: 31

    Letterhead of Black Star (Black Star Archive. Ryerson Image Center, Photo: Helene Roth).
    Logo and Stamp of Black Star Photo Agency (Photo: Helene Roth, 2019).Description of Black Star in a photographic guide (Ahlers, Arvel W.. Where & how to sell your pictures. Photography Publishing Corp., 1953, p. 45).Werner Wolff, K.S. Safranski’s Class in Pictorial Journalism, 1950 (New School for Research Archive, Photograph Collection © Steven Wolff).Facade and entrance of the Graybar Building on Lexington Avenue (Photo: Helene Roth, 2018).Cover of Selling Your Pictures by Kurt Safranski (Ziff Davis Publishing Company, 1940).Black Star contract by Fred Stein, April 1, 1944 (© Fred Stein Archive).Announcement of "Pictorial Journalism. Photographs as a Language and their special Problems" course by Kurt Safranski at the New School for Social Research, Spring 1949 (© The New School Archives and Special Collection, The New School, New York).Letterhead with the logo and address of Black Star (© Fred Stein Archive).
    New York
    PIX Publishing Inc.
    Photo Agency

    PIX Publishing Inc. was a photo agency founded in New York in 1935 by photo agent Leon Daniel and Celia Kutschuk, together with German émigré photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt and George Karger.

    Word Count: 30

    Letterhead of PIX Inc. – Correspondence Daniel Leon with Fred Stein, 1943, cropped detail (© Fred Stein Archive).
    Letterhead of PIX Inc. – Correspondence Daniel Leon with Fred Stein, 1943 (© Fred Stein Archive).Mention of PIX Publishing in a photographic guide (Ahlers 1953, p. 46).
    New York
    Leco Photo Service
    Photo Lab

    Leco Photo Service was a photofinishing lab, highly-frequented and a contact hub for émigré photographers and photo agencies during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a provider of employment for women in the photo industry.

    Word Count: 36

    Advertisment Leco Photo Service (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Leco Photo Service mentioned in Etna Kelley. “Woman in Photography.”, Popular Photography, June 1945, pp. 23 (Photo: Helene Roth).Article on Leco Photo Service by Etna Kelley. “Photofinishing Plus.” Popular Photography, February 1947, pp. 84–85 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    New York
    Oceana Publications
    Publishing House

    Oceana Publications Inc was a publishing house specialising in law and civil rights founded by the British émigré Philip F. Cohen (1911–1998) in 1945.

    Word Count: 22

    Logo and imprint of Oceana Publications Inc.
    Cover of Immigration Laws of the United States by Carol McCormick Croswell (Oceana Publications, 1953).Cover of How to become a citizen of the United States by Margaret Esther Hall (Oceana Publications, 1953).Cover of Suffer Little Children by Marion Palfi (Oceana Publications, 1952).Review of Marion Palfi's Suffer Little Children by Eleanor Roosevelt published in Des Moines Tribune, 10 December 1952, p. 20.
    New York