Young Stanley Kubrick’s Noirish Pictures of Chicago, 1949

Men, probably commuters, walking along a platform next to a train

When Stan­ley Kubrick was a mere high school stu­dent in April 1945, just after FDR died, he snapped a pic­ture of a news ven­dor framed on either side by posters announc­ing the president’s death. He was so excit­ed by the pic­ture that he skipped school to devel­op it and then marched right into the office of Look mag­a­zine. Pho­to edi­tor Helen O’Brian offered to buy the pho­to for $25. Dis­play­ing his trade­mark cock­i­ness, Kubrick told her that he want­ed to see what price he could get from The New York Dai­ly News. They only offered $10, so Kubrick went with Look. With­in a few months, at the age of 17, Kubrick became a staff pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the pub­li­ca­tion.

Below you can see some pho­tographs that Kubrick took in 1949 while on assign­ment in Chica­go. Using the same noirish high-con­trast, low-light look that marked his first three movies, he doc­u­ment­ed all dif­fer­ent stra­ta of soci­ety from floor traders, to lin­gerie mod­els, to meat pack­ers to impov­er­ished African-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies. Click  on the images to view them in a larg­er for­mat. Find a more exten­sive gallery of images here. To take a clos­er look at Kubrick­’s pho­tog­ra­phy, see the 2018 Taschen book Stan­ley Kubrick Pho­tographs: Through a Dif­fer­ent Lens and also Stan­ley Kubrick: Dra­ma & Shad­ows.

Men work­ing the floor at the Chica­go Board of Trade

Men working the floor at the Chicago Board of Trade

Lin­gerie mod­el, wear­ing a gir­dle and strap­less bra, smok­ing in an office; in the back­ground a woman sits at a desk

Lingerie model, wearing a girdle and strapless bra, smoking in an office; in the background a woman sits at a desk

Butch­er hold­ing slab of beef in a meat lock­er

Butcher holding slab of beef in a meat locker

African Amer­i­can moth­er and her four chil­dren in their ten­e­ment apart­ment

African American mother and her four children in their tenement apartment

Over­head view of the “L” ele­vat­ed rail­way

Overhead view of the "L" elevated railway in Chicago, Illinois

via Mash­able

Relat­ed Con­tent

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

The Mak­ing of Stan­ley Kubrick’s A Clock­work Orange

James Cameron Revis­its the Mak­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Ter­ry Gilliam: The Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick (Great Film­mak­er) and Spiel­berg (Less So)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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  • seth willenson says:

    black and white pho­tog­ra­phy cap­tures the soul of the city

    in the tra­di­tion of mur­nau

  • Russ Mason says:

    Kubrick was a mas­ter of every­thing he did. I am just now begin­ning to appre­ci­ate his extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties, and the pho­tos were no sur­prise. He sees more than most, hears more than most and process­es words and images in a deft and com­pelling way. He is unique among artist. But that is the Artist’s task: uniq­ui­ty.

    Pity that Kubrick nev­er made Napoleon. Now THAT would have been some­thing won­der­ful. (N’s sto­ry is yet to be told).

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