When Belgian artist Jan Yoors (1922-1977) emigrated to New York City in 1950, he channeled his curiosity toward the vibrant streets of the five boroughs. Camera in hand, he documented scenes of everyday life as a multi-medium artist through an ethnographic lens. Only One New York, the title of his 1963 documentary with filmmaker Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau and 1965 book, captures the city’s diversity through his attention to powerful, subtle moments in moving and still images. Among a collection of thousands of images documenting daily movement, intergenerational exchange, and political unrest, a notable sub-collection reveals itself: children, being children, on the streets of New York, highlighted by Jan in a dedicated chapter titled Children of the Streets.
Jan’s own childhood took place in interwar Europe. His prolific writings about this time in his life, during which he first encountered nomadic Rom as a young boy and became an adopted son of Roma communities in Europe, included vivid memories and reflections published in a 1945 issue of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, in an article titled Reminiscences of the Lovara. Noticing the parallel of Jan’s personal and professional life, we asked: How did Jan’s own childhood inform his perspective? What is the relevance of Jan’s work contemporarily? This exhibit is inspired by Jan’s unique ability to connect with others, evidenced by a connection captured through the lens.
Children of the Streets: Reminiscences of Jan Yoors weaves together two significant periods of Jan’s life: visual art documenting New York City street life and writings on his own childhood memories of first encounters with European Roma communities. Each section—Attention, Contact, Immersion, Play—seeks to mirror these words and images. In the final section—Of Seeing, Speech and the Childsphere: A Meditation into Jan Yoors’ New York Photographs—artist Jason Francisco offers a contemporary reflection on emergent themes of Jan’s work. Jan’s images simultaneously reflect upon an historic moment and stimulate an inquiry of the present.
● ● ●
Curators: Dara Bram & Catherine Ryan Contributor: Jason Francisco
Dara Bram is a PhD student in anthropology at Tulane University. Her multi-medium ethnographic practice has been profoundly impacted by Jan Yoors, whose work she was introduced to over a decade ago while co-curating an exhibit for a graduate museum anthropology course at Columbia University.
Born and raised in upstate NY, currently residing in Brooklyn, Catherine Ryan received her BFA in Professional Photographic Illustration with a minor in Criminal Justice from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has worked with the Yoors Family Partnership for almost 10 years now.
Jason Francisco (born 1967, California) is an artist working primarily in photography, and in the intersection of photography and writing. His works—documentary in spirit and conceptualist in method—focus on trauma and historical memory, and new directions in the art of witness. Francisco’s most recent book is Alive and Destroyed: A Meditation on the Holocaust in Time (Daylight Books, 2021). Many of his projects—photoworks, web-based installations, experimental films, hybrid photo-text writings, reportages, essays, and poems in translation—are available online at www.jasonfrancisco.net.
Duration: Opening: December 2021
Curated By: Dara Bram & Catherine Ryan
Location: Online via Tulane University Libraries
Acknowledgements: Yoors Family Partnership