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Arlene Gottfried Bacalaitos & Fireworks
Curlers La MarquetaPhotography Arlene Gottfried, courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Intimate photographs of 1970s Brooklyn

Photographer Arlene Gottfried shares images of Brooklyn’s Puerto Rican community during the 70s and 80s

“I took to the streets with my friends and neighbours, where I learned to dance salsa and speak some Spanish, and when I picked up a camera my friends in the neighborhood became my subjects,” explains Arlene Gottfried in a press-release for her Bacalaitos & Fireworks photo-series. 

A native of Brooklyn, Gottfried’s documentation of New York’s vivacious Puerto Rican immigrant community, shot during the 1970s and 80s in Brooklyn, captures rare, intimate moments of human emotion set against a backdrop of gritty, urban living. The photo-series contrasts the fiesta spirit against a harsh, slightly off-kilter setting; little girls parade down the street in poufy, white first communion gowns while a beaten-up old car sits parked with TV sets resting on its bonnet; a boy is captured at the exact moment of joy and terror as he bounces on a trampoline surrounded by old mattresses and cushions.

Bacalaitos & Fireworks, showing at the Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery in Brooklyn until 16 April, tenderly captures the colourful culture, warmth and humanity of Brooklyn’s Puerto Rican community. Gottfried’s intimate recording of these surreal everyday moments allows her subjects’ personalities to shine through, lending great warmth and humour to the photo-series. The strong community spirit is conveyed lovingly in gorgeous colour by Gottfried who explains “those who survive the ghetto rely on a vibrant and intimate community to help overcome the obstacles and the struggles of everyday living”.