Lida Moser

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Lida Moser
Born(1920-08-17)August 17, 1920
New York City, New York
DiedAugust 11, 2014(2014-08-11) (aged 93)
OccupationPhotographer, author
Years active1947 — 2014
Known forphotojournalism, portraiture, fashion, experimental, street photography
Notable work
Judy and the Boys, 1961

Lida Moser (August 17, 1920 – August 11, 2014)[1][2] was an American-born photographer and author, with a career that spanned more than six decades, before retiring in her 90s. She was known for her photojournalism and street photography as a member of both the Photo League [3] and the New York School. Her portfolio includes black and white commercial, portrait, landscape, experimental, abstract, and documentary photography, with her work continuing to have an impact.[4]

The Photo League was an early center of American documentary photography in the post war years, with membership including many of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. In a retrospective at the Fraser Gallery in Washington DC, she was described as a pioneer in the field of photojournalism,[5] and The New York Times noted that she "excelled at photojournalism at a time when women were a rarity in the field."[1] She has also been described, much to Moser's annoyance,[4] the "grandmother of American photojournalism."[6]


Moser was born in 1920 in New York City.[2][7] Her career started in 1947 as an assistant in Berenice Abbott's studio.[8][9] She then earned her first assignment from Vogue in 1949[10], traveling to Scotland and then across Canada. Other magazines subsequently featuring her work included Harper's Bazaar, Look, Esquire, and others. She authored a number of books of her own work ,and co-authored several photographic technique books. Articles and ongoing columns appeared also in the New York Times, New York Sunday Times, Amphoto Guide to Special Effects, Fun in Photography, Career Photography, Women See Men, Women of Vision and This Was the Photo League, among others.

Moser’s series of "Camera View" articles on photography for The New York Times appeared between 1974 and 1981.[11][12] Her photography has fetched as much as $4,000 at Christie's and other auctions[13] and continues to be collected and displayed by more than 40 museums worldwide.[14] Moser’s relationship to French photographer Eugène Atget can be seen in her photographs of Edinburgh as an early influence and that of American photographer Walker Evans.

Moser was a close friend of American artist Alice Neel, and she photographed Neel several times;[15] in return Neel painted multiple portraits of Moser, which now hang is several museums in the U.S.[16][17]


In 1949 Moser was assigned by Vogue magazine to travel to Scotland and photograph leading Scottish writers and artists. Over 100 of those photographs are now in the permanent collection of The National Galleries of Scotland.[10] Moser photographed key artists and writers such as James Birdie,[18] Stanley Cursiter,[19] William Crosbie,[10] Hugh MacDiarmid,[20] Sorley MacLean,[21]Anne Redpath,[22] Benno Schotz,[23] Douglas Young,[24] and many others.


Vogue was so pleased with the result of Moser's work in Scotland, that a year later, in 1950, they assigned the young photographer an even more ambitious task: to visit the Canadian province of Quebec and deliver a photographic essay on Quebec.[25][26][27]During the summer of that year, "Moser travelled all along the St. Laurence River, from Montreal to Quebec City, then on to Charlevoix, the lower Saint-Lawrence and the Gaspé peninsula."[25] She then returned later in 1950, this time under assignment by Look magazine, to photograph "the inhabitants – everyday people, children, artists, storytellers, actors, lovers and more."[25] A documentary of her Canadian travels and photographs was written and directed by Joyce Borenstein ,and was released in 2017 under the title Lida Moser Photographer: Odyssey in Black and White.[28][29]

Judy and the Boys[edit]

"Judy and the Boys (Mimicry)" Photograph by Lida Moser, 1961.

According to The New York Times, "Perhaps her most famous photograph, “Mimicry (Judy and the Boys)” (1961), began as a shoot for an aspiring model. Ms. Moser had posed her in front of a Greenwich Village garage when some neighborhood children demanded to be in the picture, then they began mimicking the model’s poses. The model responded with a crude gesture, captured by Ms. Moser."[1] In discussing the same photograph, The Washington City Paper wrote: "The piece typifies Moser’s work: It captures a moment in which people have let their guard down and are acting genuinely, features details of a long-vanished New York, and clearly displays the empathy Moser felt toward her subjects."[6] The Library of Congress purchased one of the original vintage prints in 1998."[1]

New York[edit]

As a New Yorker most of her life, Moser photographed her city continuously for several decades. Her New York City photographs are an example of the variety and diversity of subjects that characterized Moser's work throughout her life; it includes dynamic portraits of the people of New York: prostitutes of both sexes, firefighters, police, street hustlers, tourists, actors, tourists, musicians, composers, celebrities, etc. They include portraits of Leonard Bernstein, Charles Mingus, Judy Collins, Alexey Brodovitch, John Koch, Yousuf Karsh, and many others.[30][31] It also includes hundreds of photographs of daily New York life, its frenetic pace, traffic, parks, and buildings. Moser also carefully documented the 1970s tear-down of the neighborhood where the World Trade Center was eventually erected as well as the construction of the Center itself.[32]

Later life[edit]

Moser spent the last decades of her life in Rockville, Maryland and had several solo shows in the last few years of her life in the Washington, DC area, all of which were well received by both art critics, collectors, and museum curators.[4][5][33] She died on August 11, 2014, in Rockville, Maryland, six days shy of her 94th birthday.[26][1][2] A large retrospective of her photographs was organized by Dickinson College in 2018, with the Smithsonian Institution loaning the college roughly 500 Moser prints.[34]

Permanent collections[edit]

Moser's work is in the permanent collection of:

Significant works[edit]

  • 1949 "Queen's Parade, Edinburgh, Scotland"[33]
  • 1949 "John Boyd Orr, Baron Boyd Orr"[48]
  • 1949 "Douglas Young"[49]
  • 1949 "Stanley Cursiter"[50]
  • 1949 "Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh Tapestry Company"[51]
  • 1950 "Farm Girls, Valley of the Matapedia, Quebec"[33]
  • 1950 "Two students of Quebec City's Ecole Moderne pose with sculptures"[52]
  • 1961 "Judy and the Boys"[53]
  • 1965 "Office Bldg. Lobby, New York"[33]
  • 1968 "Cops, Times Square, New York"[33]
  • 1971 "Construction of the Exxon Building, New York'[41][33]


  • Earthman, Come Home (1966)
  • A Life For the Stars (Cities in Flight, 2) (Avon SF, G1280) (1968)
  • Construction of the Exxon Building, New York (1971)
  • Fun in Photography Amphoto U.S.(1974) ISBN 978-0-8174-056-49
  • Amphoto Guide to Special Effects Watson-Guptill Pubns(1980) ISBN 978-0-8174-352-40
  • 'Photography Contests: How to Enter, How to Win Amphoto U.S.(1981)ISBN 978-0-8174-244-59
  • Grants in Photography: How to Get Them (1979)ISBN 978-0-8174-244-59
  • Quebec a l'ete 1950 Libre Expression (French Edition) (1982) ISBN 978-2-8911-111-02
  • Career Photography: How to Be a Success As a Professional Photographer Prentice Hall Trade (1983)ISBN 978-0-13115-11-30 [54]

In popular culture[edit]

Moser's 1971 book “Construction of Exxon Building, New York City" features a photo of window washers that has been recreated in Lego building blocks at Legoland Florida theme park.

Office Building Lobby, New York, in which Moser’s wild overexposure has reduced organization men to near–stick figures and the lobby to an ill-defined blob, presaging by several years the visual distortions of 2001: A Space Odyssey.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Slotnik, Daniel E. (2014-09-02). "Lida Moser, Photographer With an Urban Eye, Dies at 93". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  2. ^ a b c d Emily Langer (August 30, 2014). "Lida Moser, photographer of New York and beyond, dies at 93". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-03. Retrieved 2012-09-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) | Women of the Photo League
  4. ^ a b c d "Why Photographer Lida Moser Couldn't Be Pigeonholed". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  5. ^ a b c Jacobson, Louis (8 April 2005). "Lida Moser: Fifty Years of Photographs". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  6. ^ a b Summers-Sparks, Matthew (2004-02-20). "Photographic Memories". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  7. ^ Moser, Lidia. "United States Public Records Index". Family Search. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  8. ^ Lalonde, Michelle (2014-04-14). "Photojournalist made her mark in Quebec". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  9. ^ "Lida Moser: Photographer who recorded the grittiness of everyday life". The Independent. 2014-09-28. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  10. ^ a b c "Artworks | National Galleries of Scotland - Lida Moser Search". Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  11. ^ Moser, Lida (17 October 1976). "A Photographer's Guide to Cooperative Galleries; Cooperative Galleries". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  12. ^ "Lida Moser (1920–2014)". Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  13. ^ "Past Auction Results for Lida Moser". Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  14. ^ "Artworks, 115 artworks, Lida Moser". National Galleries Scotland. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  15. ^ "Noted photographer Lida Moser dies at 93". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  16. ^ "Lida Moser 1963, Alice Neel". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  17. ^ "Neel / Picasso". Wall Street International. 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  18. ^ "James Bridie". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  19. ^ "Stanley Cursiter, 1887 - 1976. Artist in his Studio". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  20. ^ "Christopher Murray Grieve (nom de plume 'Hugh MacDiarmid'), 1892 - 1978. Poet". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  21. ^ "Sorley MacLean, 1911 - 1996. Poet". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  22. ^ "Anne Redpath, 1895 - 1965. Artist". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  23. ^ "Benno Schotz, 1891 - 1984. Sculptor". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  24. ^ "Douglas Young, 1913 - 1973. Poet". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  25. ^ a b c "Lida Moser's homage to "la belle province"". Westmount Magazine. 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  26. ^ a b Sophie Cazenave (2014). "Deces de Lida Moser photographe du Quebic desannees 1950". Radio Canada. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Le québec de Lida Moser". Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  28. ^ Lida Moser Photographer: Odyssey in Black and White, retrieved 2018-12-19
  29. ^ "Screening of Lida Moser Photographer - McCord Museum". Musee McCord. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  30. ^ a b "Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution". Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  31. ^ a b "Judy Collins". Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  32. ^ a b "Guide to the Lida Moser Photograph Collection New York Historical Society". Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  33. ^ a b Jackson, MaryAlice Bitts. "Student-Curated Exhibition Highlights Lida Moser's Multidimensional Work". Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  34. ^ "Lida Moser | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  35. ^ "Lida Moser 1963, Alice Neel". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  36. ^ "La photographe Lida Moser • Le québec de Lida Moser". Le québec de Lida Moser (in French). Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  37. ^ Sachet, Ambre (2016-02-02). "The 1950s in Quebec through the eyes of Lida Moser". The Concordian. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  38. ^ "Search results for Photo, Print, Drawing, Lida Moser, Available Online". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  39. ^ Canada, Service (2015-05-12). "Something old, something new: access and the heart of LAC's mandate". gcnws. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  40. ^ a b "Artworks, 115 artworks, Lida Moser". National Galleries Scotland. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  41. ^ "Search the Collection Lida Moser (1920-2014)". National Portrait Gallery London. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  42. ^ "Aaron Siskind Photograph by Lida Moser". The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  43. ^ "Women's History Month: Lida Moser". Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. 2016-03-09. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  44. ^ "Lida Moser – Artists/Makers – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art" Check |url= value (help). localhost. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  45. ^ "The RIC acquires nearly 500 photographic masterpieces from Howard and Carole Tanenbaum's private collection | Ryerson Image Centre". Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  46. ^ "The Trout Gallery". Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  47. ^ "John Boyd Orr, Baron Boyd Orr - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  48. ^ "Douglas Young - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  49. ^ "Lida Moser | National Galleries of Scotland". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  50. ^ "Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh Tapestry Company (Ronnie McVinnie, John Loufit, Fred Marin, Richard Gordon, Alec Jack, Ian Inglis, Archie Brennan,..." National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  51. ^ "The 1950s in Quebec through the eyes of Lida Moser". The Concordian. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  52. ^ Moser, Lida (1961). "Mimicry (Judy and the boys)". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  53. ^ "Lida Moser Amazon Bibliography". October 17, 1976.

External links[edit]