Lida Moser was a photographer who chronicled everyday life in her native New York and beyond in the second half of the 20th century. “When I became a photographer,” she wrote, “I was determined to use photography as a magic key into as many aspects of life as I possibly could.”
She was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia and began her decades-long career in New York in the late 1940s. She became a photographer for magazines including Look magazine and Vogue, wrote the “Camera” column for The New York Times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and published several books.
Moser was particularly known for her photography of her home town, the place she called “dirty, wild, noisy, criminal New York.” She trained as an assistant to Berenice Abbott, the trail-blazing modernist photographer, and was inspired by her collection of images by Eugene Atget, the French photographer known for his perceptive documentation of Parisian life.
One of her most noted works was “Judy and the Boys”, or “Mimicry”. Taken in 1961, the image reveals an encounter between a model – Moser’s intended subject – and a group of youngsters who invite themselves into the photo shoot.
Surrounded by the grittiness of New York, the model strikes a sophisticated pose and raises her middle finger to the boys as they mimic her stance. “I love that boy,” Moser recalled, referring to the most brazen of the children. “He’s so brave. I bet he’s a huge success somewhere today.”
Lida Moser, photographer: born New York 17 August 1920; died Rockville, Maryland 11 August 2014.
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