New York, 1954-1985 and undated

Scope and content:

One of the predominant subjects in the photographs and papers throughout Gedney's career is his home base of New York City. Gedney lived on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, and most of his New York street scenes were shot in the surrounding neighborhoods. Gedney performed extensive research on the history of Brooklyn and in particular Myrtle Avenue, thus, the Writings and Notebooks Series includes two research notebooks on the history of Myrtle Avenue.

Gedney became absorbed by the life and writings of Walt Whitman, who, he discovered, also lived on Myrtle Avenue; he jotted down fragments of Whitman's poems and writings in his notebooks, and planned to feature excerpts in his book projects.

Gedney devoted much of his career capturing images of Brooklyn street life, frequenting cultural festivals, such as the Italian-American celebrations, first communion events, street festivals, and Good Friday processions. He photographed street life in general and crowds in particular. He visited African American gospel church services and Sunday School parades; the Washington Market, where he photographed African American and Italian American workers; an Irish bar in Brooklyn named O'Rourke's; the Brooklyn Bridge, chiefly at night; Coney Island boardwalk and beaches; and the subway and elevated trains.

Highly interested in theater, Gedney shot many series of photographs in New York theaters; one series, "Summer Stock," represents a summer repertory theater not in New York but in Springfield, Illinois (though some images may be from stock theaters in New York). He also extensively documented the large gay rallies and marches in New York City of the 1970s and early 1980s (and in San Francisco), many of which marked anniversaries of the Stonewall riots. Other social gatherings he photographed were the New York City Marathon, Coney Island Mermaid, and Greenwich Village Halloween parades in the mid-1980s.

Before coming to New York City as an art school student and remaining as a permanent resident, Gedney spent his childhood in Albany and Norton Hill. Thus, the New York series also houses work from those two areas, as well as other cities and rural regions of New York. Some of these images are among Gedney's earliest work. Subjects include small-town life in Albany and other towns, street scenes, and social gatherings such as large picnics and motorcycle rallies. One sequence of photographs in the Proof Prints series features early American art at a Cooperstown museum, perhaps useful to Gedney in his teaching or in his own work. There are also hundreds of early images in the Contact Sheets from specific series that are not otherwise present in the collection.

Gedney's last work was shot in New York: contact sheets NY2-NY36 and some nude photo shoots in New York were developed by close friend and photographer Peter Bellamy from rolls of exposed film found after his death in 1989.

Related New York series images are found in the Film and Development Tests series, where there are roughly a hundred test prints, developed in some cases much later than the original images. Subjects in this series are often not found elsewhere in the collection: these include images of Gedney in his apartment; Brooklyn rooftops, yards, and streets; still lifes from Gedney's work areas; many test portraits of close friend Anita Lobel; a few isolated shots taken in the streets of Medina, N.Y.; and a series of prints taken at the Tryon family's dairy farm near his grandparents' farm (the Tryons appear to be relatives of the Gedney family). Other test prints were developed from the Brooklyn Bridge and Summer Stock series.

Other Brooklyn street and subway scenes, and Italian festival images are found in the Slides Series, and are among the only color images in the collection. There are also black-and-white Brooklyn scenes in the Slides series. Gedney took these images chiefly in the 1960s.

Material specific details:
Legacy identifiers vary; the earliest images usually begin with letter codes rather than the contact sheet-row-frame number system Gedney later developed. Also, Gedney reprinted some of these early negatives, and renumbered the contact sheets. The earlier legacy id's have been retained in the main image identifier for this project; other legacy id's are listed in the note field.


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Collection restrictions:

Portions of the collection are closed pending digitization.

Negatives and original audiovisual media are closed to use. Viewing and listening copies are available upon advance request.

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Use & permissions:

The copyright interests for Gedney images in this collection are held by Duke University. However, some commercial work, audio recordings, and materials by other creators, may carry other copyright considerations. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, or contact the Rubenstein Library.

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