In the late 1950s, the Limelight gallery and coffeehouse was the intellectual hangout of Greenwich Village, if not New York. It drew patrons and critics with ten shows per year, featuring the work of such figures as Minor White, Arnold Newman, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Brassaï, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Robert Frank. When Limelight opened in 1954, it was the first commercial gallery in the US devoted exclusively to photography; along with the Museum of Modern Art, it became the most important venue for serious photography in the city. Helen Gee: Limelight, a Greenwich Village Photography Gallery and Coffeehouse in the Fifties is the humorous and at times heartbreaking memoir of founder Helen Gee, who had the vision and perseverance to operate the pioneering gallery. Aperture is pleased to reissue this book, making it newly available as an e-book, so that Gee’s life story can continue to influence the field. From the time Limelight opened to when it closed seven years later, Gee struggled to keep it afloat, as photography as an art form was still coming into its own. Her friendships and exploits from this time involve a who’s who of photography—Edward Steichen, Lisette Model, and Berenice Abbott, to name a few—and cover landmark events, including The Family of Man at MoMA and Robert Frank’s The Americans. Seamlessly intertwined are Gee’s personal stories, including raising her Chinese American daughter alone, at a time when mixed-race families were relatively rare; dealing with a landlord with underworld ties; and coping with unwelcome advances and quixotic employees. The story of Gee’s life and Limelight’s seven-year tenure is full of adventure.
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