Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Image of Wall & Ladders, Philadelphia, PA 19790


Arnold Newman (New York, New York, 3/3/1918 - 6/6/2006, New York City, New York)


Wall & Ladders, Philadelphia, PA

Creation Date

1939 (printed ca. 1940's)


early 20th century


6 7/16 in. x 9 1/2 in. (16.35 cm x 24.13 cm)

Object Type


Creation Place

North America, United States, Pennsylvania

Medium and Support

gelatin silver print

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Gridley W. Tarbell II Fund


This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

Accession Number

Taken towards the end of the Great Depression, this photograph captures the decaying infrastructure of a city without extinguishing hope for its future. Arnold Newman is best known for his portraits of well-known people, works in which he defines his subjects through their surrounding environment. Here the photographer offers a portrait of the city of Philadelphia itself, capturing its character through cracks, ladders, and contrasting tones. In the midst of crumbling buildings, the dark silhouettes of two men appear against the light concrete wall. While the photograph shows a rundown city in need of repair, it also expresses a sense of optimism, which extends not only to the city but seems to radiate outward to the country as a whole: two men are already at work to fix the problem.

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