Through the Eyes of an Angel: New York Photos by Anthony Angel

Anthony Angel, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, between 1949 and 1967. //

Earlier this year, the Anthony Angel Collection became available for research. The collection contains around 60,000 black-and-white photographs of New York City, chiefly Manhattan, taken between 1949 and 1967.

Angel was born Angelo A. Rizzuto (1906-1967) and listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as Angelino Rizzuto, as Tony Rizzuto in 1920, and as Angelo A. Rizzuto in 1930 and 1940. When Rizzuto bequeathed his work to the Library in 1967 he wanted it to be known as The Anthony Angel Collection, with Anthony Angel being an “Americanization” of Angelo Antonio.

Settling in New York City after growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Angel spent many years photographing New York City for a book he hoped to publish titled “Little Old New York.” The book was never completed.

I have enjoyed learning about the collection by looking at both the digitized photographic prints and the undigitized contact sheets that are accessible for browsing in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, such as these two from September of 1958.

Contact sheets for LC-RZ-1958-9-21 and LC-RZ-1958-9-26. Photo by Jan Grenci, 2021.

If you look at enough of Angel’s work, you can see some recurring themes – cats and dogs, children, storefronts, people on the subway and in train stations, and nuns. The photos below are two of my favorites of nuns from the many that Angel took.

Nun sitting in front of a store window. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, August 1958. //

View of two nuns next to map of the United States with route markers and lights, suitcases on ground. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, November 1957. //

I came to appreciate Angel’s framing of images. He used architectural elements such as railings, lamp posts, and windows as compositional elements in his photos. In the examples below, the gaps in a stone railing and elevated train tracks draw the viewer’s eye to the human subjects.

Couple sitting on a bench in New York City. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, September 1956. //

Woman with umbrella walking across New York City street. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, January 1956. //

I like to find connections between P&P collections. When I saw this photo of the S.S. United States taken by Angel in November of 1964, I thought of a travel poster featuring the same ship from our collection of over 85,000 Artist Posters.

Tugboat and ocean liner S.S. United States at harbor. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, November 1964. //

Europe to America … by United States Lines. Lithograph by John S. Smith, circa 1955. //

We recently shared a selection of the photos on Flickr, where viewers expressed enjoyment – and appreciation for Angel’s eye for a good cat picture.

Cat sitting on car with skyscrapers in the distance. Photo by Anthony Angel, October 1958. //

In 1972, the Library published a booklet titled Angelo Rizzuto’s New York: “In Little Old New York, by Anthony Angel.” In it, Jerald Maddox, former Curator of Photography, described the special qualities of Angel’s work in depicting life in the city:

…and while he may not have found the most dramatic or unusual subjects, his persistence gave him an ability to select, describe, and record what might be called incidents of normality, singular events resulting from ordinary individuals passing and sometimes meeting and interacting on the streets, and the way in which all of this is formed in and by the city environment.


Woman hanging clothes on the line. Photo by Angelo Rizzuto, November 1956. //

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