Children feed an elephant at the Bronx Zoo. Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts

Only recently uncovered in an attic, photos from Frank Larson give an intimate look at what was then the center of the modern world.

A lot happened in the 1950s: The Civil Rights Movement began to take shape, America’s economy boomed, and people rocked and rolled even as the threat of nuclear war loomed over the country. New York City—then considered the center of the modern world—was bustling, and the streets were a playground for photographers.

Among them was Frank Larson, who in the ‘50s was working a 9-to-5 job as a bank auditor. On the side, Larson was an avid street photographer who spent his weekends exploring the nooks and crannies of New York City with his Rolleiflex camera. He went from Times Square to Central Park to less trendy enclaves like Chinatown and Flushing. Larson quietly developed his photos in a darkroom in his basement, and aside from a few that were submitted to amateur photo contests, most were only shared with his family.

On the corner of Mott Street in Chinatown, 1953. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)

Larson died in the 1960s, and his talent went virtually unnoticed for the next 45 years. It wasn’t until the wife of his youngest son stumbled upon a mound of negatives tucked away in a box in the attic that Larson’s work came into the public spotlight. Since then, the negatives and photos have been handed over to the Queens Museum of Arts, which displayed them in an exhibit in 2012.

"As I began unsealing each packet and holding the negatives up to the light, it was like a trip back in time, back to the New York of the early '50s,” Soren Larson, the photographer’s grandson, told Creative Boom. Indeed, the photos offer an intimate glance into the past, capturing everything from children feeding an elephant at the Bronx Zoo to Larson’s own bowling team. His photos show that life in New York at that time was anything but mundane.

School girls hanging out in 1953. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
A street performer promoting the film “Johnny Guitar” in Times Square, 1954. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Professional skaters execute a turn in mid-air at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, 1954.
A truck full of beer kegs in front of NBC Theatre, c. 1953-55. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Children watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade from a windowsill. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Frank Larson, second from the left in the bottom row, with his bowling team. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Shoe shiners working at the Horn & Hardart Automat, c. 1954. (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Spectators watch a taping of the “Today Show,” c. 1954.  (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)
Pigeons gather in Times Square, c. 1954.  (Frank Larson, Courtesy of Queens Museum of Arts)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Last Daycares Standing

    In places where most child cares and schools have closed, in-home family daycares that remain open aren’t seeing the demand  — or the support — they expected.

  2. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  3. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  4. Coronavirus

    A Green Stimulus Plan for a Post-Coronavirus Economy

    A group of U.S. economists, academics and policymakers say the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to fix the economy — and the planet — for the long term.

  5. An African healthcare worker takes her time washing her hands due to a virus outbreak/.
    Coronavirus

    Why You Should Stop Joking That Black People Are Immune to Coronavirus

    There’s a fatal history behind the claim that African Americans are more resistant to diseases like Covid-19 or yellow fever.

×