About the Photographer
Charles Pratt was raised in New York City and Maine. After graduating from Yale University in 1948 he settled in New York, where he worked as a stage manager for the next twelve years, on and off Broadway. During this period in the 1950s, he studied photography with Lisette Model, David Vestal, and Sid Grossman. Pratt became a full-time photographer in 1960 and over his lifetime he came to be best known as a nature photographer. In both his color and black and white photographs, Pratt resisted a picturesque view of the natural world or any attempts to evoke the sublime. Instead he used the camera as means to carefully commemorate a particular place and time. Pratt stated, "I believe that objective reality is infinitely complicated and infinitely rewarding, and therefore my primary concern is to make the clearest photographic image of what is in front of me. What is personal is my connection with this specific piece of the world as itself, rather than for its use symbolically or as part of a picture." This mentality also guided the numerous photographs Pratt made in New York City, most of which remained unpublished after his death in 1976. For fifteen years, beginning in 1954, Pratt pursued an ambitious agenda to comprehensively photograph "the edges of the city." Responding to predictions that New York would inevitably merge with Boston and Washington D.C. to form a sprawling megalopolis, Pratt photographed New York's periphery with a feeling of urgency, searching out a variety of places that he felt were at risk of vanishing. He interpreted the idea of the city's edge with some latitude and, on a surface level, the photographs are disparate in their subject matter, ranging from the waterfront and harbor to highways and railroad yards; from quiet residential streets to the neighboring New Jersey meadows. Collectively, these photographs become an oblique and sometimes contradictory portrait of the city where Pratt spent most of his life. And while they provide a counterpoint to his nature photographs, certain images suggest a degree of overlap, capturing places where nature maintains a tentative hold at the sidelines of the urban milieu. The Edges of the City was published as a book posthumously by Nazraeli Press in 1998, coinciding with an exhibition of the work at Robert Mann Gallery, New York.