Henri Leighton

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Henri Leighton (b.1917) was an American photographer and technical writer on photography, noted for his mid-century pictures of African-American children playing in city streets.

Photographer and writer[edit]

Images by Leighton show a consistent interest in childhood and closeness, and in the street photography genre in which he practiced he also shot night scenes and radically motion-blurred images of the hectic Times Square precinct. He used an early example of single-lens reflex camera, the 35mm format Exakta,[1] and the Contax 35mm rangefinder.[2]

Leighton wrote for a number of publications on technical aspects of photography[1][2]


The now best-known of Leighton's street photographs was selected by Edward Steichen for The Museum of Modern Art 1955 world-touring exhibition The Family of Man seen by 9 million visitors.[3] The picture was made in the year leading up to the Supreme Court (May 17, 1954) decision in Brown vs. Board of Education that abolished racial segregation in American schools. It shows two boys, one who is black with his arm over the shoulders of his companion who is white, walking in step past run-down shops. The taller boy delicately clasps a baseball card in his left hand, as if having just shown it to his friend. They are observed by an old white man sitting idly on a shop step clasping his walking-stick while another has his back turned to look at a cafe menu.[4]

The image is among a number of non-stereotypical images of black Americans at work and play in The Family of Man[5] which curator Steichen chose to challenge and subvert racial stereotypes and demystify mainstream discourses on social and ethnic relations.[6][7] The image has been used in several texts as a teaching resource, [8][9][10] and in psychology publications[11][12]

Several such Leighton photographs of black Americans were represented in a Middlebury College Museum of Art exhibition Many Thousand Gone: Portraits of the African-American Experience May 22–August 9, 2015, co-curated by Middlebury Associate Professor of History William Hart and the students in his Spring 2015 African-American History course.[13]



  1. ^ a b http://www.ihagee.org/USA/exaktamagfall1950.pdf Henri Leighton, 'Motion'. In Exakta: The Magazine for Exakta Photographers, Volume 1, Number 2, 1950, Exakta Camera Company and Wolf Wirgin]
  2. ^ a b The American Annual of Photography, Volume 66, p.50, Tennant and Ward, 1952
  3. ^ Steichen, Edward; Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973, (organizer.); Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967, (writer of foreword.); Norman, Dorothy, 1905-1997, (writer of added text.); Lionni, Leo, 1910-1999, (book designer.); Mason, Jerry, (editor.); Stoller, Ezra, (photographer.); Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) (1955). The family of man : the photographic exhibition. Published for the Museum of Modern Art by Simon and Schuster in collaboration with the Maco Magazine Corporation.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Time-Life Books (1970), The camera, New York, p. 30, ISBN 978-0-8094-1007-1
  5. ^ Di Felice, Paul; Stiwer, Pierre; Galerie Nei Liicht; Casino Luxembourg (1997), The 90's : a family of man? : images de l'homme dans l'art contemporain, Casino Luxembourg : Café-Crème, ISBN 978-2-919893-07-2
  6. ^ Hurm, Gerd, 1958-, (editor.); Reitz, Anke, (editor.); Zamir, Shamoon, (editor.) (2018), The family of man revisited : photography in a global age, London I.B.Tauris, ISBN 978-1-78672-297-3CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Borgersen, T. (2015). «The Family of Man»-Fortidens filantropi og nåtidens minnesmerke. Kunst og Kultur, 98(04), 194-205.
  8. ^ Development Through Art (Firm), & Krannert Art Museum. (1996). Visual Thinking Strategies: Introduction : learning to look. Champaign, Ill.: Krannert Art Museum.
  9. ^ Dunn, Rita Stafford; Dunn, Kenneth (1972), Practical approaches to individualizing instruction : contracts and other effective teaching strategies, Parker Pub. Co, ISBN 978-0-13-687103-3
  10. ^ Brooks, Charlotte K; Trout, Lawana (1968), Holt's impact series, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, retrieved 15 November 2018
  11. ^ Bjerstedt, Å. (1958). Reduction of 'barrier tendencies' during experience of international co-living: Psychological control studies of certain aspects in the CISV socio-educational approach. In Acta psychologica, 14, 329-346.
  12. ^ Nordisk psykologi, p.166, Volume 10, 1958. Contributors: Dansk psykologforening, Suomen psykologinen seura, Norsk psykologforening, Sveriges psykologförbund Publisher Munksgaards
  13. ^ Press release for Middlebury College Museum of Art exhibition Many Thousand Gone: Portraits of the African-American Experience May 22–August 9, 2015