by Sara Blair
Taking readers from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, Sara Blair traces the career of the Lower East Side as a place where image-makers, writers, and social reformers tested new techniques for apprehending America—and their subjects looked back, confronting the means used to represent them. This dynamic shaped the birth of American photojournalism, the writings of Stephen Crane and Abraham Cahan, and the forms of early cinema. During the 1930s, the emptying ghetto opened contested views of the modern city, animating the work of such writers and photographers as Henry Roth, Walker Evans, and Ben Shahn. After World War II, the Lower East Side became a key resource for imagining poetic revolution, as in the work of Allen Ginsberg and LeRoi Jones, and exploring dystopian futures, from Cold War atomic strikes to the death of print culture and the threat of climate change.