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c. 1950s - 1960s

The colors of New York

Renowned color photographer Ernst Haas snaps NYC in the 50s and 60s

A high-angle view of three yellow taxis at a street crossing in New York City, 1953. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)

These vibrant and fragmentary shots of New York City were taken in the 50s and 60s by renowned color photographer Ernst Haas (1921-1986). Haas was a titan of color photography — he was the first color photographer ever to have a solo show at the NYC Museum of Modern Art — and he was also president of the legendary Magnum photo group.

These pictures show why. Self-taught behind the lens, Haas was born and grew up in Vienna. Just after the Second World War, aged 25, he obtained his first camera, on the black market (in exchange for a very large slab of margarine).

In 1950, he arrived in New York, and would live in the city for the rest of his life.

Many of the pictures here first appeared in a LIFE double-issue article called Images of a Magic City.

As they convey, Haas was less interested in a direct photographic record than he was in communicating the feel of what he observed.

Not that Haas wasn’t also commercially minded. He was stills photographer for a great many films, including Hello Dolly and West Side Story and also photographed numerous ad campaigns such as Volkswagen, and Marlboro cigarettes.

A homeless man searches through New York trash cans for something to eat. Meanwhile three women cross the road behind him carrying laden shopping bags.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
A taxi passes a crowd of pedestrians on a street in New York.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
New York pedestrians weave their way through traffic.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
Two men loading Jaguar cars onto the back of a car carrier.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
Traffic underneath the elevated railway on 3rd Avenue.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
Traffic reflected in the windows of an office building.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
A high-angle view of three yellow taxis at a street crossing.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
Three blue shirted New York policemen on motorbikes are leading a street parade.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
A baker preparing and arranging sandwiches as the New York City skyline is reflected on the window of the bakery.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
Horse-drawn carriages line Fifty-Ninth Street in New York City, waiting for a fare.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
A man standing on a street reflecting city lights after the rain.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images
The Theater District, toward Loew’s State Theater and the Criterion Theater at night.
Ernst Haas / Getty Images

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