Barbara Mensch is a Brooklyn native who received a BFA degree from Hunter College in New York City after obtaining a scholarship to spend her first college year studying drawing at the Academia Di Belle Arte in Florence, Italy. Barbara began her professional career as an illustrator for Ms. Magazine. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, Barbara became fascinated with photography while working as a photo assistant at the Knoedler Gallery in New York, printing black and white images from large format negatives of the estates of Calder, Chagall and Claude Monet.
At this time, Barbara moved downtown to near the base of Brooklyn Bridge and began photographing her neighborhood. The lonely cobblestoned streets came alive each night as New York's infamous, nearly 200 year-old, "tough" Fulton Street Fish Market still operated here, hard by the East River. As a single woman working alone, it took many years of extraordinary persistence and commitment for Mensch to earn a sense of cooperation from her wary subjects, an urban tribe of men, many of whom were deeply suspicious of outsiders. Her challenge was compounded by shooting in low amber light and often brutal weather conditions. One result of Mensch's seminal work is a magnificent publication of images and oral histories titled South Street (Columbia University Press, 2007). This book received outstanding reviews, is now reprinted in paperback and is housed in many institutional libraries. With the move of the fish market out of the neighborhood, Barbara's book has also become an important tool to study urban transformation.
After finishing this project, Barbara immersed herself into documenting some of the known and unknown aspects of the Brooklyn Bridge. The series of bridge images created by Barbara, along with newly discovered historical documentation, provide yet another rich contribution to New York City history. Barbara is currently collaborating with novelist Erica Wagner, the book editor of the London Times, regarding a book and exhibition about the Brooklyn Bridge. Barbara is also working on another 20-year project (Photographing New York City on Foot) and will be presenting this work, along with a catalogue to be written by photo historian Bonnie Yochelson, in the upcoming year.
Barbara Mensch has had more than 15 solo exhibitions of her photographic work and has been in countless group exhibitions. Barbara's images have been represented by some of New York City's most prestigous galleries and her work is in numerous collections including the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, other museums as well as in many corporate and private collections (Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Sir Elton John among others). Barbara not only captures stunning, unique images but also has mastered the crucially important "old school art" of printing by hand in gelatin silver.
The Robert Anderson Gallery is pleased to exhibit, for the first time, "The Paris Bar Series of South Street." These images (circa 1980-1983) are a set of three 30" x 30" gelatin silver prints. These images are among the earliest of Barbara's timeless story about the New York waterfront below Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Bridge #1, December, 1998 (a 30" x 30" sepia toned gelatin silver print, 10/10) is also on view. This image has been widely reproduced including as the cover announcement for Arthur Miller's "View From the Bridge" and from the Italian translation of Norman Mailer's "Barbary Shore."