Life on the Lower East Side.
Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, 1937–1950.
Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff. By Peter Dans , Suzanne Wasserman.
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010. 192 pp., 170 black & white illustrations, 8½x11".
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.
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