"The Bar Sammy’s Bowery Follies as Microcosm and Photographic Milieu Study for Emigrated European Photographers in 1930’s and 40’s New York"

Helene Roth

Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci, Mareike Hetschold, Rachel Lee, Laura Karp Lugo, Helene Roth, Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 293–313

The essay has its starting point with the bar sign “Paulaner. Craft Brewery”, that was encounteretd during a walking tour at the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It was by chance that it came out, that another bar in the same place, called Sammy’s Bowery Follies, was opened in 1934 by Sammy Fuchs at 265–267 Bowery and subsequently became an important gathering place for various social and cultural groups throughout the 1940s. Interestingly, the bar and its patrons were also the subject of pictures by emigrated European photographers such as Weegee, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Erika Stone and Lisette Model, who were fascinated by the patrons of Sammy’s Bowery Follies and captured their impressions of them and this special place. In the context of the immediate urban environment of the Lower East Side, a quarter where many European emigrants lived in the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of questions arose: Why were the emigrated photographers as so interested in Sammy’s Bowery and its surrounding neighbourhood? How did they photograph the bar? Can the bar be seen as a photographic milieu study for these emigrated photographers and what function does photography play here? Based on photo reportages in Life magazine and other photographs, this essay sets out to analyse these questions in the context of exile, urban, sociology and photography studies.