Helen Gee’s Limelight by Marvin Heiferman

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 62 Winter 1998
Bombcover 62 1024X1024

Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company


Helen Gee 1

Helen Gee. Photo by Frank Paulin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press.

Helen Gee, in her charming and frequently hilarious memoir, Limelight: A Greenwich Village Photography Gallery and Coffeehouse in the Fifties, tells how and why she was able to keep this country’s only serious photography gallery in the 1950s open and solvent. In and out of Limelight—and across the pages of this long-awaited book—walk (and sometimes stumble) a mind-boggling cast of characters that defines the passionate, heady excitement of mid-century American photography. There’s the moody, unshaven, and married Robert Frank, flirting with the stylish and attractive Gee before he sets off in a used car to take the pictures that would fill his then-controversial, and now-classic, book The Americans. There’s old Edward Steichen, flush with the success of his Family Man exhibition at MoMA, chasing Gee across the city and around her bedroom until he collapses, near dead from the excitement. There’s Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Weegee the Famous, Gene Smith, and Jack Smith, and even naked little Bobby De Niro, who played doctor with Gee’s daughter, Li-lan. With humility, perception, elegance, and humor, Gee vividly recounts everything from being threatened by mobsters and protected by bookies, to finding a dead rodent in a Limelight cannoli, to the ups and downs of being a single mother and the unlikely, legendary doyenne of New York’s ever-changing photography scene.

—Marvin Heiferman

Limelight was recently published by University of New Mexico Press.

Luc Sante's Kill All Your Darlings by Nicole Steinberg
Luc Sante
Related
Fall Arts Preview
Bernadette Mayer Memory 01

Upcoming shows, retrospectives, and museum openings highlighted by Maika Pollack, Ratik Asokan, Alex Zafiris, Gideon Jacobs, Michael Barron, Wendy Vogel, Zack Hatfield, and Legacy Russell

Looking Back on 2016: Art & Film
Looking Back 2016 Art Film Bomb 1

Selections by Lucas Blalock, Carmen Boullosa, Liz Collins, Ricky D’Ambrose, Andrew Durbin, Scott Esposito, Jen George, Brent Green, Carlos A. Gutiérrez, Karl Holmqvist, Roberto Juarez, Baseera Khan, Jaime Manrique, Isaac Pool, Marina Rosenfeld, Frederic Tuten, Wendy Vogel, and Alex Zafiris.

Klaus Kertess’s Seen, Written by Max Blagg
Klaus Kertess 01

Seen, Written is filled with fluid and poetic dissertations on a wide range of artists and their work, standouts among them the essays on Carroll Dunham, Brice Marden, and Louisiana shaman Keith Sonnier.

Originally published in

BOMB 62, Winter 1998

Featuring interviews with Elizabeth Murray, Kerry James Marshall, Anthony Hecht, Michael Winterbottom, Liza Bear, Wong Kar-Wai, Olu Dara, Martin Sherman, and Philip Kan Gotanda. 

Read the issue
Bombcover 62 1024X1024