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Limelight: A Greenwich Village Photography Gallery and Coffeehouse in the Fifties : A Memoir

Gee, Helen

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ISBN 10: 0826318177 / ISBN 13: 9780826318176
Published by Univ of New Mexico Pr
Condition: Fine Soft cover
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0826318177 This is a trade paperback. !!!Cover has minor wear!!!. Bookseller Inventory # 173.J14

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Limelight: A Greenwich Village Photography ...

Publisher: Univ of New Mexico Pr


Book Condition:Fine

About this title


In the late 1950s, Limelight was the busiest coffeehouse in New York and the only photography gallery in the country. This is the story of Helen Gee's efforts to open Limelight and her fight to keep it afloat for seven years. The major figures in photography appear in this story - Edward Steichen, Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith, Berenice Abbott, and others - and so do the big events of the period: the opening of The Family of Man, the publication of The Americans. Gee has her own personal stories as well, raising her Asian American daughter alone, dealing with a landlord with underworld ties and bookies who did business in the hall of her apartment house, and coping with unwelcome advances, quixotic employees, and suicidal photographers.
This is also a portrait of a time when Greenwich Village was a center of creative activity, when actors, writers, painters, and photographers were part of a burgeoning coffeehouse scene.


For seven short years, a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village called Limelight was at the center of the art-photography world. There, owner Helen Gee exhibited the works of such luminaries as Harry Callahan, Bill Brandt, Imogen Cunningham, and Lisette Model at a time when photography was not yet considered an art, and the sticker prices on the prints were a mere fraction of what they'd be today. Limelight is Gee's memoir, a story about the coffeehouse she started, the people she knew, and the times in which she lived.

Even without the coffeehouse, Gee's life is like something out of a novel: at age 16 she left home to live in Greenwich Village with a Chinese painter named Yun Gee. The late '30s and early '40s were hardly a time of racial tolerance in the United States, and so their romance was disliked as much for its interracial nature as for the age difference between the two lovers. After the birth of their daughter, Yun Gee developed schizophrenia, leaving Helen to fend for herself and her child. She did this in a variety of ways before finally hitting on the idea of opening a coffeehouse. In Limelight Gee describes the obstacles she faced in starting the place, the people she met while running it, and the eventual problems--both political and personal--that brought Limelight down. This memoir is both Gee's story and the story of the art community in 1950s, both of which are worth telling.

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