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Untitled (Woman with Shopping Bag and Blurred Priest)
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© Donald Blumberg

Donald Blumberg
American, New York, 1965 - 1967
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 16 7/16 in.
2006.22.10

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By joining together the crisply delineated image of a solitary woman with the blurred image of a priest, it might be interpreted that photographer Donald Blumberg was attempting to make a metaphorical statement about faith. But Blumberg was more interested in using photography as a form of visual experimentation. His choice of religious subject matter was somewhat arbitrary. As he wandered the streets of New York City, he came upon the right type of light to test out his ideas: a dark background behind a brightly lit public walkway where he could anonymously record passersby. The sidewalk in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral proved to be the ideal place.

Donald Blumberg's series In Front of St. Patrick's Cathedral was made along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan between 1965 and 1967. By tilting the camera and excluding the edges of the building's darkened doorway as worshippers spilled out into the bright sunlight, he created unconventional scenes in which figures float against a dense black background, unmoored from the specificities of time and place. Blumberg planned and shot sequences that depicted a single figure successively, changed its scale, or blurred its appearance as he moved the camera during long exposures. By combining two to three contiguous 35mm frames within a single panoramic print, he introduced a sense of movement and narrative to still photography.