Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rebecca Lepkoff Photographs

Few things capture turn-of-the-century life on the Lower East Side better than art, which we'll explore in this week's series.

Born in the Lower East Side in 1916, photographer Rebecca Lepkoff kept her camera trained on the neighborhood for over six decades, charting its gradual shift from melting pot to hipster hot spot. Early in her career, Lepkoff joined the progressive (and eventually black-listed ) Photo League, a group of New York shutterbugs that captured, like the Ashcan artists decades before them, the gritty realities of urban street life. Her classic black and white snapshots of the el train, tenement buildings, and mothers with baby carriages are featured in the book Life On the Lower East Side, and were on display for a while at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in SoHo, where visitors could ask to see rare original prints. The gallery's collection still includes works by a number of famous 20th century New York artists, including Jacob Riis.

A Lepkoff photo from the 1940s. Baby carriages were as common a sight on New York's streets back then as they are now.

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