In 1969, Lee Witkin opened a gallery dedicated to fine art photography and pioneered an industry. Before then, few existed. Stieglitz and Steichen might sell to a MoMA, but contemporary photographers worked on the fringes of the art world. Lee drew them into the mainstream. At his first show, Scott Hyde, George Krause, Duane Michaels, George Tice and Burk Uzzle made their debut before New York's elite collectors.

Soon established masters came to show at the Witkin. Stieglitz. Steichen. Weston and Curtis. Alvarez Bravo. Brassaï. Doisneau. Exhibiting such historically important work, Witkin and Daitz sought to educate aspiring collectors.

Both Witkin and his successor, Evelyne Daitz, recognized the power of new photographers to take the artform down off its pedestal and define it on their own terms. In the early years, Christopher James, Bruce Barnbaum, Keith Carter, Leonard Sussman, Robert Flynt and Mario Cravo Neto would be introduced through the gallery. Short on status but long on energy, the protegés would attract critics and artists as well as collectors to the gallery.

The Witkin aesthetic? Lee and Evelyne favored artists looking to plumb their personal vision rather than dialogue with the avant garde. Over the course of 30 years, they mounted more than 300 exhibitions, featuring a wide range of work by artists at all stages of development.

Lee D. Witkin
©Tom Groenfeldt, 1982