Ann Zane Shanks: Behind The Lens

September 09, 2003
March 28, 2004

Over the course of her 40-year-career, the Brooklyn-born Shanks has brought her considerable artistic and entrepreneurial gifts to photojournalism, publishing, television and theatre while also fulfilling the roles of wife and mother of three. Shanks originally aspired to become an actress before taking up photography at the Photo League, where she took class with esteemed photojournalist Dan Weiner. She also won a scholarship to Alexei Brodovich's legendary photography class, and in 1955 the Museum of the City of New York showed her photographs of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue El. Her work appeared frequently in national magazines like Esquire and Woman's Day as well as in the publications of charitable and government agencies. In 1973, Shanks wrote and illustrated About Garbage and Stuff (Viking Press) a pioneering book for young adults about recycling. Subsequent books included Old is What You Get (Viking Press, 1976) and Busted Lives: Dialogues with Kids in Jail (Delacorte Press, 1982).

In the 1970s, Shanks added filmmaking to her arsenal of talents. Highlights of her career as producer and director include the half-hour television series American Life Style (1971-82), which was syndicated to 150 markets; the Emmy-nominated programs Drop Out Father, featuring Dick Van Dyke (CBS, 1982) and A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape, narrated by Kirk Douglas (PBS, 1984); and many others. Ms. Shanks has received 27 film festival awards. In the 1980s, the prolific and multi-talented Shanks branched into the theatre, producing the Broadway play Lillian starring Zoe Caldwell in 1986, and the Off-Broadway production S.J. Perelman in Person, which she directed with Lewis Stadlen in 1989.

The exhibition will include approximately 75 photographic prints as well as the magazines and books in which they first appeared. Her first film, Central Park (1970), an independent short acquired by Columbia Pictures, will be on continuous view, along with memorabilia related to the Broadway productions. The exhibition is organized for the Historical Society by guest curator Bonnie Yochelson, whose previous exhibitions include Esther Bubley: American Photojournalist (PaineWebber Art Gallery, 2001) and Berenice Abbott's Changing New York, 1935–1939 (Museum of the City of New York, 1998).

A publication featuring 55 of Shanks' photographs entitled Ann Zane Shanks…Photography will accompany the exhibition and be distributed nationally.

Creative: Tronvig Group