In the days before smartphones and social media, America relied on the photographers of magazines such as Life , Time , Ebony, and Sports Illustrated to show them the world, and for more than fifty years, Art Shay was one of the very best. With wit, compassion, and uncanny timing, he recorded the bombast and energy of postwar America, finding unique angles on the moments and personalities making the news.
Though Shay learned his craft from legendary photographers such as Francis Miller and Wallace Kirkland, he had also been a reporter and a Bureau Chief for Life so he shot with a writer’s eye. His images are stories just waiting to be told. It’s not surprising that he captured the literary world with such unusual sensitivity and insight, from the clarity in the eyes of Gwendolyn Brooks and the weary look of an aging Ernest Hemingway, to Allen Ginsberg teaching a rapt crowd in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Among writers, though, Shay was closest to Nelson Algren, and his photos of Algren in Chicago stand as one of the most evocative documents of a writer, and the city he lived in. In October 2017, Shay joined Gordon Parks, Henri Cartier-Bresson and William Klein as winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lucie Foundation.
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