Stanley Kubrick’s Photos of New York Life in the 40s (The New York That No Longer Exists)

Self portrait with showgirl Rosemary Williams 1948 – Photograph via

Stanley Kubrick—who wrote and directed Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining—was one of America’s most influential filmmakers. Directors ranging from the Coen Brothers to Tim Burton paid visual homage to his works in their own films, and no less than Steven Spielberg said: “Nobody could shoot a picture better in history.”

In fact Kubrick’s special skill behind the camera and his ability to create visual intrigue were evident long before he was a Hollywood icon. Even at the age of 17, Kubrick was an immense talent. In 1945, for $25, he sold a photograph to Look magazine of a broken-hearted newsvendor reacting to the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A few months later Kubrick joined Look’s staff to become the youngest staff photographer in the magazine’s history. He continued to work for Look until 1950 when he left to pursue filmmaking.

It was during this period that Kubrick’s respected—and often-imitated—style first became apparent. His photographs are vintage Kubrick: a complex blend of composition, drama, light and mystery.

Images in this collection show the drama—both human and artistic—that infuse Kubrick’s work. Included are: the photograph used on the cover of the Kubrick book, Drama & Shadows, of a young woman making her way down a steep set of stairs while carrying a pile of books precariously tilting books; showgirl Rosemary Williams intently applying makeup as the equally intent young Kubrick photographs her. His subjects are as varied as the city he worked in: he catches Broadway actress Betsy Von Furstenberg studying her lines; prizefighter Walter Cartier in the corner between rounds; Dwight Eisenhower, also between rounds—after World War II, before he became President of the United States—when he was Columbia University’s president, and performers from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.