Morris Engel


Morris Engel Biography

American, 1918 – 2005

Morris Engel was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 1918. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School and joined the Photo League in 1936 where he met Aaron Siskind, Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand, who invited him to work on his film "Native Land."

Engel became a staff photographer on the newspaper "PM" and joined the Navy in 1941. As a member of Combat Photo Unit 8 that landed on Normandy on D-Day, he received a citation from Captain Edward Steichen. After his return to "PM" he worked for many national magazines including "Ladies Home Journal", "McCall's", "Fortune", "Colliers" and others.

His initial taste for motion pictures begun with Paul Strand reached a new level when he built a lightweight hand-held 35mm camera with Charles Woodruff. This camera was a major factor in the production of his first film, "Little Fugitive." It served the dual purpose of creating extreme fluidity, and being able to work on a small budget, with a tiny crew. The film, which is about a 7-year-old boy who runs away to Coney Island, has received international acclaim. Francois Truffaut said, "Our new wave would never have come into being if it hadn't been for the young American Morris Engel, who showed us the way to independent production with his fine movie ‘Little Fugitive.’" It won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award, and was selected by the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1997.

Engel and Orkin married during the making of “Little Fugitive” in 1952, and made a second film together, “Lovers and Lollipops.” Engel made “Weddings and Babies” in 1958 that starred Viveca Lindfors, and “I Need a Ride to California” in 1968. He also completed two video features, “A Little Bit Pregnant” in 1994, and “Camellia” in 1998. He also returned to the streets of NYC, shooting color panoramas.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2000 Stephen Daiter Gallery , Chicago, IL
1999 Photographs Do Not Bend, Dallas, TX
1999  Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
1944 U.S. Navy, The Defender Company, London, England
1940 The Photo League, New York, NY
1939 The New School for Social Research. Introduction by Paul Strand, New York, NY

Selected Group Exhibtitions
2016 PM Exhibition at Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, NY
2015 Coney Island – Visions of an American Dream Land, 1861-2008, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
2012 The Radical Camera: New Yorks’s Photo League 1936-1951, Jewish Museum, New York, NY
2012 Film and Photo in New York: Morris Engel, Louis Fauer, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Paul Strand and Weegee. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
2012 Museum of the City of New York: London Street Photography, with “City Scenes: Highlights of New York Street Photography.”, New York, NY
2011 Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
2011 Modernist Photography, 1910-1950 at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
2006 “Where Do We Go From Here?”: The Photo League and Its Legacy (1936-2006). New York Public Library, New York, NY
2002 Classic Images; Photography of Ruth Orkin and Morris Engel, Sag Harbor, NY
1999 Photo League, Fudacion Telefonica, Spain
1999 Eight Million Stories: Twentieth-Century New York Life in Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library, New York, NY
1998 Take the A Train, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
1998 New York School of Photography, 1930’s-1960’s, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1995 Photography Collection, ICP, New York, NY
1993 An American Century of Photography: From Dry Plate to Digital, The Hallmark On the Elbow, The Witkin Gallery, Inc., New York, NY
1987-1989 The Photo League, 1936-1951 organized by SUNT New Plaza, traveled to colleges throughout New York State, NYS
1986 Tides of Immigration: Romantic Visions and Urban Realities, Brooklyn College, New York, NY
1985 American Images 1945-1980, Barbican Art Gallery, London, England
1985 A Tribute to Lee D. Witkin, The Witkin Gallery, Inc.,  New York, NY
1983 Roy Striker: USA, 1943-1950, ICP,  New York, NY
1978 Photographic Crossroads: The Photo League, New York, NY

Public Collections
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME
Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ
George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, ME
Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City, MO
International Center of Photography, New York, NY
LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
New York Public Library, New York, NY
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
San Antonio Museum Association, San Antonio, TX
Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS
University of Louisville Photograpic Archives, Louisville, KY
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, NM
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Oct 27, 1945 United States Navy Photographic Institute Citation for Exceptionally Meritorious Photography, Awarded Navy Day
For Outstanding Achievement While Serving As A U.S. Navy Combat Photographer and as a member of combat photo unit number eight. For an exceptionally fine series of still photographs of the invasions in Southern France and on the Normandy Beaches, where his indifference to danger and his keen awareness of what scenes were most vital in the action around him, resulted in a contribution of great value to the visual records of the war. His photograph showing enemy dead on the Normandy beach, taken on D-day and in the face of grave danger, is one of the great pictures of the war and reflects the highest credit upon Engel and the U.S. Navy photographic service. Signed by Edward Steichen, Captain USNR/Director, Navy Photographic Institute
1998 Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, Crystal Apple Award
1998 Lifetime Achievement Award, Photographic Administrators
2002 Pioneer of Independent Cinema Award