Paul McDonough, originally from Portsmouth, NH moved to New York in 1967 after studying art at the New England School of Art in Boston. It is also in Boston that he became more serious about photography, claiming in his book that what turned him away from painting was a realisation that the streets and parks of Boston provided him with subject matter that he could not conjure up in his studio. McDonough was also a contemporary of Gary Winogrand with whom he used to walk and shoot. He also attended a ten sessions workshop with Winogrand where he spent hours with four other photographers discussing their work around a table. As well as there seeming to be a similarity in the style of Gary Winogrand and McDonough’s Manhattan photography, Paul McDonough also mentions three books which have been an important influence on his photography: The Decisive Moment by Henry Cartier Bresson, The Americans by Walker Evans and Lolita by Nabokov.
Portrait of a woman with hat – 1968
Two women in white shorts – 1973
Femininity and elegance is a central theme of Paul McDonough’s book. As we go through the pages, the editing gives rhythm to a fashionable world of women representing the fashion of the time. The first picture of the book is a beautiful candid portrait of a woman wearing a nice, smart hat. Then further on, two girls, one with blond hair and one with dark hair, wearing white shorts and black jumpers and having a drink with a straw makes a beautifully contrasted sexy pair. We should also mention a photograph of two girls about to kiss in Central Park in the social context of the time when the sexual revolution of the end of the 60′s and the beginning of the 70′s was taking place.
Central Park, couple kissing – 1972
New York 1968-1978 is far to be only a world of elegante women. There is an extraordinary picture of two men, friends or colleagues, side by side on a zebra crossing and looking like a bicephalous body in almost perfect symmetry. I have also in mind a picture of three car sellers in a car shop captured with an identical “serious” pose.
Two businessmen crossing sreet – 1970
Three car salesman – 1973
I feel the influence of Henry Cartier Bresson in a photograph taken in Central Park Pond, where three boys are playing on a tree branch. In the composition, a round part of the branch opens the space where two girls are cycling, emphasizing the fun of the place and the scene of the three boys.
Central Park pond, kids in tree – 1973
Paul McDonough’s essay gave birth to a wonderful photo book filled of humanity depicting the dense life of Manhattan. A must have on your bookshelf.