In the late 1950s, Limelight was the busiest coffeehouse in New York and the only photography gallery in the country. This is the story of Helen Gee's efforts to open Limelight and her fight to keep it afloat for seven years. The major figures in photography appear in this story -- Edward Steichen, Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith, Berenice Abbott, and others -- and so do the big events of the period: the opening of The Family of Man, the publication of The Americans. Gee has her own personal stories as well, raising her Asian American daughter alone, dealing with a landlord with underworld ties, bookies who did business in the hall of her apartment house, and coping with unwelcome advances, quixotic employees, and suicidal photographers.
This is also a portrait of a time when Greenwich Village was a center of creative activity, when actors, writers, painters, and photographers were part of a burgeoning coffeehouse scene. Photography as an art form was coming into its own, and Limelight Gallery made history with some seventy shows. The story of its seven years is amusing and heart-breaking, exciting and surprisingly full of adventure.