See New York City in 1968 through the lens of photographer Katrina Thomas with “Streets in Play”. Curated from the NYC Parks Photo Archive collection, the exhibition features more than 40 of Thomas’ photographs of “Playstreets” or residential blocks closed to traffic and equipped with recreational and cultural activities. With dynamic black-and-white images that document carless streets and children engaged in inventive and self-directed forms of play, the 1968 images speak to present-day questions of whom and what purposes city streets might serve. Where were you in 1968?
Katrina Thomas (1927-2018) was hired to document Mayor Lindsay’s 1968 Task Force initiatives and later donated those photographs to NYC Parks. Her images were commissioned to use for publicity, fundraising appeals, and official reports, and intended to offer visual proof that the city was compensating for a lack of investment in low-income, racially segregated neighborhoods. But Thomas’ exceptional eye transcended the task. Her photographs represent one of the most complicated yet revealing collections of imagery in the Photo Archives—shaped by the tension between the demands of a commissioned project and Thomas’ personal perspective.
Katrina Thomas (1927-2018) had a highly varied photography career, from a steady business in commercial children’s portraiture to municipal contracts, photojournalism assignments, and self-directed ethnographic projects. Decades after the 1968 Task Force project, Thomas donated the collection to NYC Parks. The never-before exhibited photographs represent one of the most complicated yet revealing collections of imagery in the Photo Archives—shaped by the tension between the demands of a commissioned project and Thomas’ personal perspective.
Curated by Rebekah Burgess, NYC Parks Photo Archivist, and Mariana Mogilevich, historian of architecture and urbanism and Editor in Chief, Urban Omnibus.
Streets in Play: Katrina Thomas, NYC Summer 1968 will be on view from June 24 through September 2, 2022 at Central Park’s Arsenal Gallery, located at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, Third Floor of the Arsenal Building.