Life on the Lower East Side
Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, 1937-1950
Rebecca Lepkoff, Peter Dans, Suzanne Wasserman
170 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 5/1/2010
|A young Rebecca Lepkoff, camera in hand, navigated the streets of the Lower East Side of New York in the 1930s and 1940s, before the Alfred E. Smith housing project largely demolished and forever changed its character. She captured the lives and times of a vibrant, close-knit, and functional multiethnic community. Through her lens, she documented street scenes--a woman stopping in front of a tenement to share some news, a fruit seller peddling her wares, a woman hanging laundry on a clothesline. Stoops, rooftops, fire escapes, and sidewalks in front of candy stores and delis were the preferred social and recreational locales. In the absence of playgrounds, children improvised outdoor play areas and congregated Saturday afternoons in front of the Loew's Canal.
Life on the Lower East Side, the first monograph of Lepkoff's works, highlights the lost neighborhood between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges from the Bowery to the East River. With over 170 beautifully reproduced duotone photographs and essays by Peter Dans and Suzanne Wasserman, the book reveals the dynamic community of Italians, Irish, Jews, Greeks, Spaniards, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Lepkoff's images uncover a forgotten time and place and reveal how the Lower East Side has both stayed the same and changed forever.
Suzanne Wasserman is an historian and award-winning filmmaker. She has a Ph.D. in American History from New York University. She is the Associate Director of the Gotham Center for New York City History at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. She was an historical consultant on Ron Howard's film, Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe. A graduate of Manhattan College and Columbia Medical School, Peter Dans currently works on issues related to drug safety in the elderly. Dans, who writes a quarterly column as the "Physician at the Movies," has written a book about the portrayal of doctors in film titled Doctors in the Movies: Boil the Water and Just Say Aah!, and a children's book about the urban nesting of peregrine falcons, Perry's Baltimore Adventure: A Birds-eye View of Charm City.
Rebecca Lepkoff has exhibited her photographs at the International Center of Photography, The New York Public Library, Fourteenth Street YMCA, Pfeifer Gallery, Daniel Wolf Gallery, Howard Greenberg Gallery, and Henry Street Settlement. Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Canada, and Bank of America, among others. Her photographs appear in A History of Women Photographers by Naomi Rosenblum, Bystander: A History of Street Photography by Joel Meyerowitz and Colin Westerbeck, and Street Gangs by Sandra Gardiner. She is represented by the prestigious Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City and still lives in New York City with her husband.