31 Amazing Photos That Show Street Life in New York City in the 1940s

Fred Stein (1909-1967) was an early pioneer of the hand-held camera who became a gifted street photographer in Paris and New York after he was forced to flee his native Germany by the Nazi threat in the early 1930s. He explored the new creative possibilities of photography, capturing spontaneous scenes from life on the street. He was also a master portraitist, creating intimate images of many of the great personalities of the 20th century.

In the freedom of New York, the energy of the city infused Stein’s work. He added the medium-format Rolleiflex, which takes pictures in a square format.

The city’s cultural mix fit perfectly with his talents and concerns. He took to the streets and ranged from Harlem to Fifth Avenue, invigorated by the bustle and variety of the New World. He loved the American spirit; and as an outsider, he came to the various ethnic areas without preconceived ideas. He was able to see in the residents a style, humor and dignity that seems perfectly fresh, even today, as evidenced in “Little Italy” 1943.

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