Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie

Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie are being exhibited for the first time at the Brooklyn Historical Society from July 2016 to July 2017 in Brooklyn Heights, a half-century later after their creation

Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie

Brooklyn Historical Society | 128 Pierrepont Street | Brooklyn Heights

Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie are being exhibited for the first time at the Brooklyn Historical Society from July 2016 to July 2017 in Brooklyn Heights, a half-century later after their creation.

In the spring of 1958 a young photographer named David Attie was led through the streets of Brooklyn Heights and to the Brooklyn waterfront by an unexpected guide—33-year-old Truman Capote. The images Attie took that day were to illustrate Capote’s essay for Holiday magazine about his life in Brooklyn.

David Attie studied with Alexey Brodovitch, who also trained Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and who first acquainted the artist with Truman Capote. This lost work reveals an intriguing set of relationships and illuminates a particular moment in Brooklyn’s history.

Capote lived at 70 Willow Street in the heart of Brooklyn Heights from 1955 to 1965, writing two of his most famous books in the basement apartment, Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood.

Years after the photographer’s passing, his son, Eli Attie, came across a manila envelope simply marked ‘Holiday, Capote, A3/58.’ Inside were negatives and contact sheets taken by his father that he’d never seen before. The unprinted negatives helped to fill in the story of the start of Attie’s successful career, and the surprising role that Truman Capote played in launching that career. The photographs were originally shot for Holiday magazine, which was publishing Truman Capote’s 1958 essay on living in Brooklyn. Attie was hired to illustrate the essay, at what is believed to be Capote’s request.

Ultimately four of Attie’s photographs were published as part of the Holiday magazine spread. The remainder – some 800 negatives from the Brooklyn shoot – were gathering dust. Among these were extraordinary portraits of Capote and W.E.B. Du Bois, and images of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, once home to artists and writers, which has long since changed with the times. Many of these images were published for the first time last year in Little Bookroom’s Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir With the lost photographs of David Attie, a book of Attie’s photographs accompanied by Capote’s seminal essay.

Now BHS is digging even deeper: with the help of Attie’s sons Eli and Oliver, and his widow Dotty Attie, the institution will host the first show to include Attie’s original Brooklyn prints including the portraits of Capote and Du Bois. Also on display will be three original prints of photographic montages that Attie created to illustrate the publication of Capote’s novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s; two original, signed Capote letters about that project; and an assortment of David Attie’s contact sheets with his original grease pencil markings. Of the 40 prints that will be exhibited, 18 were prints by David Attie himself which were discovered by his family members, and 22 are archival ink-jet prints from Attie’s original negatives.

Exhibiting these lost photographs for the first time does many things. It shows a Brooklyn long past. It illustrates the gifts Capote recognized in Attie. And it reconstructs a forgotten moment in two young artists’ lives; the early championing of a talented young photographer by a rising literary star.


All photos: Original print by David Attie, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.


All photos: Original print by David Attie, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.


All photos: Original print by David Attie, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Brooklyn Historical Society is located at 128 Pierrepont Street, at the corner of Clinton Street, in Brooklyn Heights. BHS is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 5 p.m. Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie will be on view through July 2017.

About Brooklyn Historical Society

Founded in 1863, Brooklyn Historical Society is a nationally recognized urban history center dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of Brooklyn's extraordinary 400-year history. Located in Brooklyn Heights and housed in a magnificent landmark building designed by George Post and opened in 1881, today's BHS is a cultural hub for civic dialogue, thoughtful engagement and community outreach.

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