If you're looking for something fun to do in your post-Thanksgiving tryptophan haze that doesn't involve engorging yourself on yet another serving of pizza stuffing and/or begging everyone to please shut up so you can watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles in peace, there are two new complementary photography exhibits at The Met that are worth checking out.

A photo of Helen Levitt, New York ca. 1939

Helen Levitt, "New York" (ca. 1939)

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Helen Levitt, "New York" (ca. 1939)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2020

Cruel Radiance: Photography, 1940s–1960s is a survey of midcentury photos, a mix of rarely-seen photographs from The Met’s permanent collection with recent acquisitions of major Japanese works. Altogether, the exhibit includes 60 photos exploring the explosion in postwar photography between World War II and the Vietnam War, featuring the work of luminaries including Helen Levitt, Robert Capa, Roy DeCarava, Robert Frank, Don McCullin and Walker Evans. The show also features photographs by Aaron Rose from his Gem Spa series (Rose also famously documented the destruction of Pennsylvania Station).

The title of the exhibit is taken from James Agee and Walker Evans’s 1941 collaboration Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Agee wrote of Evans's work that “all of consciousness is shifted from the imagined...to the effort to perceive simply the cruel radiance of what is.”

A photo of Qualeasha Wood, "The [Black] Madonna/Whore Complex" (2021)

Qualeasha Wood, "The [Black] Madonna/Whore Complex" (2021)

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Qualeasha Wood, "The [Black] Madonna/Whore Complex" (2021)
Courtesy of Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick, New York/ © Qualeasha Wood

Then there's Alter Egos | Projected Selves, in which modern artists offer 30 "diverse experiments in self-portraiture." It's a wide-range of styles, with photographers like Tom Friedman manipulating his image beyond recognition in Untitled; Qualeasha Wood transposing her image onto textile in The [Black] Madonna/Whore Complex (2021) (it debuted on the cover of Art in America earlier this year); Weng Fen and Debbie Grossman removing themselves from their self-portraits; and Mike Kelley including himself along with symbol-laden toys in Ah...Youth! (1991).

Both exhibits opened this month and will be on display through May 1st, 2022. The museum, located at 1000 5th Ave in Manhattan, is open Sunday–Tuesday & Thursday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. You can get more ticket info here.