New York City has been home to a Puerto Rican population since the mid-1900s, with the most noticeable migration boom beginning in the 1950s. As Puerto Ricans settled in New York over the years they stamped the city with their culture, indelibly altering neighborhoods like the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and downtown Brooklyn with rhythm, style, flavor, art, language, and claro, Latino cuisine.
Arlene Gottfried, herself a native New Yorker, grew up side by-side with the burgeoning Puerto Rican community, never straying far from its influence whether living in Brooklyn or the LES. In the heart of the barrio, Gottfried began shooting pictures inspired by her bohemian friends and using them as subjects—in apartments, on the streets, and in the park, in times of radiant joy and heart-breaking sorrow.
Bacalaitos and Fireworks is Gottfried’s ode to Nuyorican life and style, from the 70s to the present, shot with an unfailingly lyrical eye and full of vibrant personalities: eccentric bad-boys, white-clad church-goers, an afro-sporting poet in a groovy leisure suit, a gambling grandpa with painted-on eyebrows and a cowboy mustache, and even your grandparents’ beloved, plastic-covered furniture.
This is the New York of broken televisions littered throughout the streets, burned-out abandoned buildings, neighborhood fiestas with pigs roasting on spits, and home to outcasts living in poverty. Gottfried offers first-hand testimony to the pain of alienation, neglect, drug addiction, and ultimately crime, prison, and death. But there is also evidence of the lively and intimate community that helps them overcome these obstacles.
About the Author
Arlene Gottfried was born in Brooklyn. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, she worked as a photographer at an ad agency before freelancing for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The London Independent. Gottfried has exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and in Tokyo, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others. Her photographs are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The New York Public Library, and the Maison Europeenne de la photographie in Paris. The recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women's Documentary Photography, Gottfried is the author of THE ETERNAL LIGHT. A lecturer and a teacher, Gottfried lives and works in New York City.
"Gottfried is well known for photographing her life in Manhattan since college in the 1970's. Her signature is capturing deeply personal and public moments that build upon an endless diary of the city that’s slowly disappearing with time and gentrification."
“The book is a beautiful look at the Loisaida/Nuyorican culture of the Lower East Side in the 1970s.”