VIEWED FROM A GRATING in the sidewalk, a blurred shape passes hurriedly by, a man with shoulders hunched.
It is one way of seeing, the way of "The New York School." At the Corcoran, in Part Two of a series on New York photographers from the mid-1930s to the early '60s, 118 photographs show a black-and-white city in a unsentimental, if not hopeless, light. They emphasize the moment -- at times, incredibly workaday moments, moving too fast for focus.
There are six artists in this installment. One, Roy DeCarava, prepared in 1935 with Langston Hughes a captioned picture book called "The Sweet Flypaper of Life." Much of the content of this show falls under that heading.
DeCarava's photos are the most poignant -- a girl in a white graduation gown picks her way down a newspaper-littered sidewalk, or an embittered, grubby man trudges up subway steps. By contrast, Robert Frank takes pictures "From the Bus," of people with no particular place to go. They are waiting for the bus, or the crossing light, or Godot.
Ted Croner sees a city of lights. New York is a marquee in the rain. It's the lights of Horn & Hardart and RKO Palace seen through tears.
William Klein fills his frames with tension and human faces; there's a message in these unloved unlovelies. Dirty kids delight in playing with a gun. In "Macy's and Christmas Shopping," all the unfocused women rushing between stores have identical pointy glasses, corsages and downturned mouths. "4 Heads, New York" is an effective blowup of four intense faces caught in a moving crowd -- two young blacks, a woman with a veiled hat and a policeman, facing each other but not seeing.
Least represented in the show is Ed Feingersh, who died at age 36, a stunt photographer who would just about crawl under the wheels of a race car for a picture. His photos possess a single, strong, soft-focus image, whether it's a leg and a rifle in a battlefield, a saxophone man in a dance hall or Marilyn Monroe. Apparently, all of Feingersh's negatives were destroyed, and practically all that's left of his work are pages in magazines, and that's a pity.
With the most recent photo (1960), David Vestal starts to experiment with the now- familiar sharp focus on ordinary things. His photo of a man in the rain showed something new for the New York School. He shoots down from overhead, capturing the texture of the grating in the sidewalk and the pattern of circles that rain makes when it falls in a puddle. There is strong composition here. But the contrast between this and the loose focus of most of the other photos makes it stand out even more. The familiar details are something of a relief. -- Pamela Kessler.
THE NEW YORK SCHOOL -- Photographs 1935-1963, Part II, at the Corcoran Gallery through June 30.