Before he was a genre-bending, award-winning director, Stanley Kubrick was a photographer—one who captured the everyday lives of New Yorkers in cinematic images that hinted at what was to come in his later years. The Bronx-raised Kubrick was just 17 when he began working for Look magazine as a staff photographer, a job that took him to every corner of New York City (and beyond) over a period of five years.
Now, more than 120 of these photos are collected in “Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs,” opening on May 3 at the Museum of the City of New York. The photos are from the museum’s collection of Look photos, and will also be collected in a book of the same name, to be published by Taschen as a companion.
The photos are not the sort of conceptual work you might expect from the director of A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Given the venue—Look was a general-interest publication, in the vein of Life—the photos are a more mundane look at New Yorkers’ day-to-day lives, from kids playing in the street to tired couples riding the subway. Still, it’s fascinating to see the city through Kubrick’s eyes; as the New York Times noted, without his career at Look, his later work would almost certainly have never come to fruition.
“By the time I was 21 I had four years of seeing how things worked in the world,” Kubrick told an interviewer in 1972. “I think if I had gone to college I would never have been a director.”
The exhibit is on view at the Museum of the City of New York from May 3 to October 28.