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A ...........................                                      .Click for Full Size

John Albok
Title: "Verboten" in Harlem

Medium: Vintage Gelatin Siver Print
Mount: unmounted
Print Date: 1937
Photo Date: 1937
Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.
Photo Country: USA
Photographer Country: USA
Description: Photographer's stamp
on verso.

 

John Albok
Title: Harlem-1938-"Playground"

Medium: Vintage Gelatin Siver Print
Mount: unmounted
Print Date: 1938
Photo Date: 1938
Dimensions: 10 1/2 x 13 in.
Photo Country: USA
Photographer Country: USA
Description:
Photographer's stamp on verso.

Back

John Albok was born in Munkacs, Hungary (present-day Ukraine) in 1894. The oldest of eleven children, he learned to be a tailor at age 13. He wanted to be an artist, however, and satisfied his artistic leanings through photography using a Kodak Brownie acquired in a trade for a pair of binoculars. During World War I he was drafted into the Hungarian Army and while behind the lines he photographed emaciated Russian captives.

After the war Albok learned that while he'd been away his two sisters had died of starvation and his father had committed suicide. Shattered, he decided to emigrate, leaving for the United States in 1921. Soon after he arrived in New York City he opened a tailor shop at 1392 Madison Avenue, at 96th Street, where he lived until his death. He photographed street scenes through his shop window and developed them at night, turning his shop into a darkroom.

Albok soon married a woman named Elona and had a daughter, also Elona. In 1929 a portrait of his daughter won him the Eastman Kodak Amateur Photo Contest. However, throughout the 1930s he was known only to his neighbors, who often paid him for family portraits, pet portraits, photographs of Hungarian events, or other neighborhood get-togethers. Then, in 1937, Albok was discovered by noted curator Grace Mayer (1901-1996) after he won a weekly photo contest sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune. In 1938, Mayer, who was instrumental in the re-discovery of Jacob Riis and built the photograph collection at the Museum of the City of New York, arranged to have Albok's work exhibited at MCNY in a show titled "Faces of the City."After the show Albok's career picked up steam. His photograph subjects included leisure time in Central Park, the 1939-1940 World's Fair, New York street scenes during World War II, and later Greenwich Village and the Russian Orthodox Church, specifically St. Nicholas Cathedral on East 97th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Albok had an aesthetic fascination with children, animals, and leisure activities; the majority of the New-York Historical Society's collection revolves around these subjects
.

Albok died of cancer at Mt. Sinai Hospital on January 10, 1982, at the age of 87, a day before a retrospective of his work, "Tailored Images," opened at the Museum of the City of New York. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife and daughter. During his life his work had been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country and had been the subject of two films: "John Albok's New York," (1966) nominated for an Emmy, and "John Albok, Master Tailor," done for Swedish television (1979). After his death his work continued to be displayed in museums, galleries, as greeting cards, and on television. Numerous articles in art magazines and journals have also been written on Albok.