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. Life

    The Future of the City Is Childless

    America’s urban rebirth is missing something key—actual births.

  2. A crowded street outside in Boston
    Life

    Surveillance Cameras Debunk the Bystander Effect

    A new study uses camera footage to track the frequency of bystander intervention in heated incidents in Amsterdam; Cape Town; and Lancaster, England.                            

  3. A woman wheels a suitcase on a platform toward a train.
    Transportation

    In Denmark’s Train Dream, the Next Big City Is Only an Hour Away

    A newly revived rail plan could see Denmark’s trains catch up with its reputation for other types of green transit.

  4. A photo of anti-gentrification graffiti in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    The Hidden Winners in Neighborhood Gentrification

    A new study claims the effects of neighborhood change on original lower-income residents are largely positive, despite fears of spiking rents and displacement.

  5. Life

    Are These the Last Vape Shops in San Francisco?

    The city wants to stop the rise of teen vaping by banning the sale of Juul and other e-cigarettes. It could also mean the end of a particular kind of store.

×