Mad Men ended its run last spring, but the fascination for all things midcentury continues apace, especially when you’re talking about midcentury New York. The period produced its fair share of New York photographs and street photographers documenting the city a half-century ago, among them a talented amateur shutterbug named Frank Larson (1896–1964). It’s only been in the past several years that Larson’s work has been discovered. The Queens Museum mounted a survey of his work in 2012, but before then, little had been heard of him.
That’s probably because Larson led a fairly quotidian life. He lived in Flushing, Queens and worked at the same bank for 40 years, confining his picture-taking to the weekends. His hobby evolved to a more committed practice after his sons grew up and left the house, though photography remained an avocation for Larson instead of a profession, even after he retired and moved out to Connecticut in 1960. Still, he had deft eye for capturing people meshing with the rhythms of ’50s and ’60s New York in a way that seems timeless while also serving as a perfect time-capsule evocation of a certain moment and place. That moment and place could be described as New York at its most confident, most modern and most egalitarian—the crest of a wave that was soon to crash into postmodern doubts and disparities.