In the 70s and 80s, photographer Arlene Gottfried captured the plastic-covered couches, pigs roasting on a spit, and first communions of New York’s Puerto Rican community. Gottfried took photos in different parts of New York City, but Loisaida was her main focus. Through her camera, she open-mindedly documented what life was like for Nuyoricans.
“It was a mixture of excitement, devastation, and drug use,” she told the New York Times. “But there was more than just that. It was the people, the humanity of the situation. You had very good people there trying to make it.”
As of this week, Gottfried’s photos are being exhibited at the Daniel Cooney Fine Art until April 16. Titled Bacalaitos & Fireworks, the exhibition is named after her 2011 book, which is named after the street vendors selling codfish fritters and fireworks.
Gottfried grew up in Crown Heights, and as the neighborhood started changing and her white neighbors started moving, her family stayed. When her mother moved to the Lower East Side in the 70s, Gottfried regularly visited. This is perhaps why she was able to relate to the communities she was photographing, but her curiosity was also an advantage.
“‘Wait until you see what you find down the block,’” she remembers someone telling her. “And there was this pig roast. You get exposed to all that being outside. It was a lot of fun.”
Read the NYT’s feature on Gottfried here and check out a few images below.