Whether photographing Robert Rauschenberg amid the street detritus he transformed into his “Combine” paintings; Norman Mailer grimacing pugnaciously in Village Voice editor Dan Wolf’s office; or Senator Bobby Kennedy touring a slum apartment a year before his murder, head bowed as he passes a portrait of Jesus crowned with thorns, Fred W. McDarrah (1926–2007) documented New York’s cultural and political heavyweights with wide-open eyes. “Don’t ever turn down an assignment,” the ex-Army paratrooper once told an art director at the Voice, where he worked for five decades. “If you don’t want to do it, tell ’em it’ll cost $10,000.” In grainy black-and-white, McDarrah combined noir contrast with zesty compositions — check out a declaiming Jack Kerouac, seemingly crucified in plaid — to go beyond photojournalism and discover a postwar New York that still inspires.

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. Starts: Feb. 5. Continues through March 8, 2014