The Tale of the Shoe Shine Boy

Stanley Kubrick’s 1947 pictorial for LOOK Magazine.

At the age of 13, Stanley Kubrick was given a Graflex camera by his father which triggered a fascination with still photography.  He sold his first photo to LOOK magazine when he was 17 years old and soon became a staff photographer.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). Shoe Shine Boy, 1947. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10368.286

In 1947, a year after he started photographing for LOOK, Kubrick shot the story of the Shoe Shine Boy.  This pictorial contains a total of 202 images captured on 35mm film strips and medium and large format negative, most of which have never been published.

This story follows Mickey,a 12-year-old boy from Brooklyn who shines shoes for 10 cents a pop to  help support his sizable family, including nine brothers and sisters.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). The Shoe Shine Boy, 1947. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10368.262

Kubrick follows Mickey throughout his day, photographing him boxing and playing basketball, going to the laundromat, interacting with his family, and shining shoes.

Even in the early stages of his professional career, Kubrick has the eye of a director.  The photographs seem artfully staged and speak about the human condition, something that Kubrick uses as a ongoing theme within his films.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). The Shoe Shine Boy, 1947. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10368.230

Kubrick often spoke about his early days as a photographer and how he could not have been the filmmaker that he was without a ‘photographer’s eye’.

**Stanley Kubrick shot for LOOK magazine from 1946 to 1951.  The Museum of the City of New York has approximately 12,000 Kubrick negatives and 10,000 contact sheets. We are in the process of digitizing ALL of them!

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). The Shoe Shine Boy, 1947. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10368.281

To read more of an in-depth (and incredibly interesting) description of Kubrick’s days at LOOK Magazine, go to the 2005 Vanity Fair article.

Do you have information about Mickey or his family? We’d like to find him. Help us out and you could win an archival quality print from this series. Email collections@mcny.org with any information.

Stanley Kubrick(1928-1999). The Shoe Shine Boy, 1947. Museum of the City of New York. X2011.4.10368.308

8 responses to “The Tale of the Shoe Shine Boy

  1. This is great! I enjoyed reading this!

  2. Elaine and Jim

    Hi, Ally

    Glad to see this is up. Looking forward to more.

  3. What an interesting article.

  4. How wonderful to see these early works of Kubrick. Thank you for posting these!

  5. Amazing photos. The one of his family is particularly haunting. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your website in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

  7. Pingback: Stanley Kubrick’s Shoe Shine Boy | NYC Real Estate News

  8. Did you find Mickey? I would love to read something about him and his life…

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