Penn Station

Louis Stettner

Penn Station, New York

  1. Photographs and Afterword Louis Stettner
  2. Introduction by Adam Gopnik
  • ISBN 9780500544501
  • 33.00 x 26.50 cm
  • Hardback
  • 112pp
  • With 66 illustrations
  • First published 2015

Louis Stettner Penn Station

Louis Stettner’s poetic photographs of the now-gone Penn Station, published in book form for the first time

‘Full of theatrical composition, voyeuristic opportunism and momentary observations’ – British Journal of Photography
‘A vital work that will only grow in importance as time goes on’– Amateur Photographer

‘But finally, all of these echoes, however truly they ring in these pictures – echoes of a lost time, echoes of changing classes, the reverberation of the loss of great public architecture – can’t conceal the truest bell that sounds when we look at these photographs, and that is the bell of the one right person caught in the single telling moment’ – Adam Gopnik

Louis Stettner took a photograph in Penn Station in 1957 of a girl in a party dress stepping from one circular patch of sunlight to another across the vast floor of the station, moving away from the photographer toward the farther reaches of the station interior. The image inspired the photographer to return a year later and create the series of Penn Station photographs. For Stettner, the station ‘was a spacious and dramatic arena where people in the act of travelling went through a mixture of excitement, a silent patience for waiting, and an honest fatigue’.

The Penn Station series is a richly evocative and poetic statement about a lost time and place in New York of the 1950s. Though the station makes itself felt by its shadowy spaces and glowing surfaces, the work is not a portrait of the building, but rather a study of the people within it, at once in transit and in suspension. Deemed unpublishable at the time he took the series – Life magazine rejected the photographs for not being newsworthy or unusual enough – the Penn Station series has since come to be recognized as a profound and compelling work of art which is published here in volume form for the first time.

Louis Stettner (b. 1922) is one of the last living members of the avant-garde New York School of Photography.
Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer on The New Yorker since 1986. He has published many books, including Paris to the Moon.
Raphaël Picon teaches at the Institut Protestant de Théologie in Paris.