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- The collection primarily contains photographic work from the partnership of Leo Friedman, Joseph Abeles, and Sy Friedman, together the pre-eminent photography studio documenting Broadway theatrical productions. The Friedman-Abeles photographs consist primarily of photographs, negatives, contact sheets, proofs, slides, and oversized prints, spanning the partnership, which lasted from 1954-1970, with additional examples of earlier and later work.
- Friedman-Abeles (Firm) (Creator)
- Abeles, Joseph (Contributor)
- Friedman, Leo, 1919-2011 (Contributor)
- Friedman, Sy, 1919-1985 (Contributor)
- Friedman-Abeles (Firm) (Photographer)
- Talbot (New York, N.Y.) (Photographer)
- Dates / Origin
- Date Created: 1940 - 1980
- Library locations
- Billy Rose Theatre Division
- Shelf locator: *T-Vim 1992-013
- American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy -- Pictorial works
- New York City Center -- Pictorial works
- New York Shakespeare Festival Productions -- Pictorial works
- Actors -- United States -- 20th century
- Theater -- United States -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century
- Broadway (New York, N.Y.)
- Business records
- Contact sheets
- Biographical/historical: The Friedman-Abeles Studio was the pre-eminent firm documenting Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatre performance in the post-World War II period. In many respects, theatrical photography came of age with the work of the Friedman-Abeles Studio, which operated between 1954 and 1970. While Leo Friedman took the on-stage and site-specific rehearsal, performance and candid shots, Joseph Abeles was responsible for the studio portraits, and Sy Friedman also photographed productions for the firm. Together, they created a body of work in which tens of thousands of photographs artfully captured the illusion of theatrical reality on still film.
The Friedman-Abeles Studio photographs archive is a landmark record of its age, covering more than 800 theatrical productions--including Barefoot in the Park, Cabaret, Camelot, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Company, Fiddler on the Roof, Grease, Gypsy, Hello Dolly!, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The King and I, Man of La Mancha, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Oliver!, Promises, Promises, A Raisin in the Sun, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and dozens of productions by the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn., the New York Shakespeare Festival, and at New York City Center, to name but a few. Many images, such as the photograph of Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert running down a New York City sidewalk in a still for West Side Story, are instantly recognizable and are iconic documents of Broadway history.
Moreover, while Friedman-Abeles was hired to provide publicity photographs of the shows themselves, producers and publicists began to understand the potential uses of non-production photographs, hence the wealth of back-stage or documentary images from the many productions. Friedman-Abeles captured the process and performers behind the scenes, from auditions, to first rehearsals, to an actress posing with her new dog, as well as candid opening night and after-party celebrations.
Moving away from the large-format cameras favored by earlier theatre photographers such as White Studio and Florence Vandamm, the Friedman-Abeles firm used hand-held Rolleiflex cameras in the early years, which produced 2 1/4" negatives on a 12-frame roll, and then transitioned to 35mm cameras by the late 1950s, which allowed 36 negatives per roll. For performance shots, they often used specialized 35mm camera technology to capture a rapid sequence, or "burst," of images within just a few seconds, capturing action that can be viewed as a type of early animation. These techniques and technologies—now commonplace but revolutionary for the period—freed the photographers to move about the theater to best capture ephemeral theatrical moments.
Leo Friedman was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1919. He learned photography while working as an assistant to theatre and film producer Mike Todd in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Friedman enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in 1942, serving in Europe until the end of World War II. Returning to New York, he worked as a freelance photographer until he partnered with photographer Joseph Abeles in 1954, opening a studio at 351 West 54th Street.
Joseph Abeles was born in New York City in 1906, and founded his portrait photography business, Talbot Studios, in 1935, photographing Broadway and Off-Broadway performers and other subjects. During World War II, he served in the Army in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Seymour (Sy) Friedman (no relation to Leo) was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1919 and enlisted in the Army in 1943, contributing photographs to Yank magazine. Sy began working for NBC in 1945 and joined the Friedman-Abeles firm in 1961.
The Friedman-Abeles partnership ended circa 1970 when Leo Friedman moved to Los Angeles. Abeles continued photography as Joseph Abeles Studio until he retired in the late 1970s. In about 1978, the Friedman-Abeles archive was sold to New York City investment firm Carl Marks & Co., which later donated the collection to the Billy Rose Theatre Division. Sy Friedman worked with Joseph Abeles as a Broadway, Off-Broadway, and commercial photographer, often shooting for Joseph Papp's Public Theater, and then photographed under his own Zodiac imprint after Abeles' retirement. Sy retired from photography in about 1981.
Sy Friedman died in Manatee, Florida, in 1985. Abeles died in New York City in 1991. Leo Friedman died in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2011.
- Content: The Friedman-Abeles photographs consist primarily of photographic prints, negatives, contact sheets, proofs, slides, and transparencies spanning the partnership of Leo and Sy Friedman and Joseph Abeles. While the partnership lasted from 1954-1970, the collection does contain photographs from beyond this date range. These photographs are generally marked as being from Talbot Studio, the studio Abeles founded before his partnership with the Friedmans, or the Joseph Abeles Collection, his studio afterward the partnership ended.
Images from theatrical productions comprise the majority of the collection, and the images cover various stages of production. Many shows have rehearsal, production, and publicity prints. Some also have images of set construction, costume design, backstage visits, and parties. The images are from Broadway and off-Broadway shows, as well as out of town engagements throughout the northeast, and various other productions in Connecticut and New Jersey.
Almost all of the images are in black and white, but color negatives, transparencies, and slides are noted when present. There is also a series of the firm's other work that contains images from events around New York City--luncheons, award events, and other commercial work. The collection also contains studio portraits of actors, actresses, producers, authors, and others involved in theater.
The invoices and correspondence series contains paperwork related to various projects, sales, reports, bills, and more related to the administration of the Joseph Abeles Collection (the archive described here) by Carl Marks & Co. between 1978 and 1980. A large section of this series is devoted to the publication of the 1980 Broadway Musical Calendar.
- Physical Description
- Black and white
- Photographic prints
- Type of Resource
- Still image
- NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19936079
- MSS Unit ID: 22538
- Archives collections id: archives_collections_22538
- Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): d3802d10-f49a-0139-3bff-0242ac110002