Began photography and printing in 1950, self taught
The Queens recorded in Armand Agresti’s black-and-white photographs from the 1950’s is a mythic place full of hot jalopies, seriously cool cats and girls with beehives that just won’t quit.
Mr. Agresti, himself a teen-ager at the time, must have been a bit of a pest to his friends, always hanging around taking pictures. His photographs here evoke a prelapsarian world of sunny, tree-lined streets and slow dancing, a world where thoughts of fallout shelters and segregation were far away. Part of the charm of these photographs is how unpretentious and direct they are, and how self-conscious their subjects are as well. Three teen-age girls pose themselves in the driveway of a white frame house, two with hands on hips in would-be model poses, the third beaming beneath a towering hairdo. The guys, meanwhile, are hanging out on the corner, or posing with their Chevys
In the 1960’s, Mr Agresti switched to color, and his pictures from that time reflect the traumas of the period. In one, a young woman in a flowered dress with lace cuffs, her eyes ringed in heavy mascara, pores over a copy of Drug Weekly.
Elsewhere a bushy-haired man with a walrus mustache slumps blearily on a staircase, bathed is a psychedelic red light. Pictures like this are a reminder of the end of the innocence that the 60’s brought to American youth. But it’s the earlier pictures here, the ones of impossibly young teen-agers trying earnestly to be the james Dean or Doris Day , that tug at the heart.