Category Archives: Photography

“Arlene Gottfried, Photographer Who Found the Extraordinary in the Ordinary, Dies at 66,” By William Grimes

“Communion.” Arlene Gottfried

“Arlene Gottfried, Photographer Who Found the Extraordinary in the Ordinary, Dies at 66”

‘She roamed the streets of New York, camera in hand,
finding opportunity at every corner.’


Arlene Gottfried, whose arresting images of ordinary people in New York’s humbler neighborhoods earned her belated recognition as one of the finest street photographers of her generation, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 66.

Her brother, the comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried, said the cause was complications of breast cancer.

Ms. Gottfried roamed the streets of New York, camera in hand, finding opportunity at every corner. Much of her work recorded the daily routines and local characters in the city’s Puerto Rican areas, where cultural exuberance coexisted with poverty and urban blight.

Arlene Gottfried in 2011. Kevin C. Downs

In one of her most celebrated images, a nun leads a group of Roman Catholic schoolgirls in Communion dresses down a trash-strewn street lined with old cars, one of them with a plugged-in television set on the hood tuned to a western.

She photographed a gospel choir in Harlem; followed a club dancer and former convict known as Midnight as he declined into mental illness, a journey recorded in her book “Midnight” (2003); and turned her lens on her own family in her mother’s final years for the photo essay “Mommie,” published last year.

“Jewish Bodybuilder and Hassid.” Arlene Gottfried

She struck pay dirt on a nude beach in Jacob Riis Park in 1980, when a Hasidic Jew, dressed in black hat and overcoat on a scorching summer day, unexpectedly appeared. A nude bodybuilder approached and asked her to take a picture of the two together “because,” he said, “I’m Jewish.” She obliged. The unforgettable photo shows a flexing nude, smiling proudly, next to his thoroughly nonplused and emphatically clothed companion.

Ms. Gottfried’s subjects were never specimens, held up for cold examination. She was part documentarian, part social worker, a warm and sometimes lingering presence in the lives she recorded. She spent 20 years with Midnight and ended up joining the gospel choir that was the subject of her first book, “The Eternal Light,” published in 1999.

“Puerto Rican Day.” Arlene Gottfried

“How her eye captures people, and how she touches them, that’s hard to explain,” her brother told The Guardian in 2014. “Someone else couldn’t see the funny or odd or touching thing, and capture it. Kind of like how a singer can have a great song, but not know how to sing it. She’s able to do that.”

Ms. Gottfried is prominently featured in a documentary film about her brother, “Gilbert,” scheduled to open in November.

Arlene Harriet Gottfried was born on Aug. 26, 1950, in Brooklyn. She spent her early childhood in Coney Island, living above the hardware store that her father, Max, ran with his brother, Seymour. Her mother, the former Lillian Zimmerman, was a homemaker.

When Arlene was 9 the family moved to Crown Heights, whose growing Puerto Rican population captured her imagination. In later years she took the cry of a Puerto Rican street vendor, selling cod fritters and fireworks on the Fourth of July, as the title of her book “Bacalaitos & Fireworks” (2011), an unvarnished but loving look at Puerto Rican life on the Lower East Side and in Spanish Harlem.

“Summer Afternoon.” Arlene Gottfried

“It was a mixture of excitement, devastation and drug use,” she told The New York Times in 2016, describing the scenes she recorded. “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.”

When she was in her teens, her father gave her an old camera, and she began taking pictures as she walked around the neighborhood, a habit that became a career. “We lived in Coney Island, and that was always an exposure to all kinds of people, so I never had trouble walking up to people and asking them to take their picture,” she told The Guardian.

“Brothers With Their Vines, Coney Island, N.Y., 1976.” Arlene Gottfried

Ms. Gottfried took photography courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan because, she once explained, she did not want to listen to lectures or do homework. After leaving the school, she found work doing commercial photography at an advertising agency.

In the mid-1970s she began a freelance career in which her work sporadically appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, Fortune and Life.

Arlene Gottfried in 2012. Kevin C. Downs

She discovered a second life as a gospel singer in the 1990s. Selwyn Rawls, the director of the Eternal Light Community Singers in Harlem, invited her to join the choir. Belting out songs of praise, she began appearing with choirs at gospel festivals and eventually emerged as a soloist. Most recently, she sang with the Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by a sister, Karen Gottfried.

Left, “Guy With Radio, East 7th St., 1977.” Right, “Rikers Island Olympics, N.Y., 1987.” Arlene Gottfried

Although well known to photographers and photo editors, Ms. Gottfried remained unknown to the larger public for most of her career. That changed when her black-and-white work from the 1970s and ’80s, some of it collected in her book “Sometimes Overwhelming” (2008), caught the wave of interest in the gritty, dangerous New York of yesteryear. An exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in 2014 attracted the attention of the national news media and led to shows in France and Germany.

The attention seemed to startle her, since she described her vocation in modest terms. “I think I wander around and I see things that just speak to me, in one way or another,” she told Time magazine in 2011. “There are things that you try to say something about, or a moment you want to hold.”

By William Grimes, Reprint from The New York Times / Art & Design, 10 August 2017, © 2017 The New York Times Company.

“Life on the Streets: Sergio Larrain… ” By Richard Conway

Sergio Larrain—Magnum: Street children in Santiago, 1957.

“Life on the Streets: Sergio Larrain at Rencontres”


For a man who worked professionally for barely more than ten years, Sergio Larrain, who died in 2012, had a disproportionately large impact on photography. The author of four books, he is widely considered Chile’s finest lensman, though he became something of a recluse later in life.

Born in Santiago into a well-to-do family, he ditched a possible career in forestry for a life behind the camera, and saved up for his first Leica by working in a cafe. The son of an architect father, his love of photography grew when he later traveled the Middle East and Europe, lens in tow. His real break came in 1958, though, when he bagged a British Council bursary that allowed him photograph cities throughout the U.K.

The images that emerged – chiefly of London – were captivating shots of the everyday, and caught the eye of Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Frenchman later invited Larrian to Paris and the Chilean soon joined Cartier-Bresson’s Magnum agency as an associate in 1959 (and became a full member in 1961).

Chilian photographer Sergio LARRAIN. MAGNUM

Chilian photographer Sergio LARRAIN. MAGNUM

His was a career filled with disparate subject matters, tied together with his famous compassion for those he photographed. Larrain’s style is immediately recognizable: he made use of vertical frames, was a fan of low angle shots and was wholly unafraid of experimentation. Much of his work was concerned with street children, and his some of his earliest pictures – those from a 1957 series in Chile, for example – are certainly his most powerful. Though he was no stranger to architectural photography, having shot fellow countryman and diplomat Pablo Neruda’s house.

Indeed, his portraiture is as humanistic as it is environmental. One of his most captivating images, taken as part of the later Valparaiso series in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, perfectly combines both. The piece shows two young girls going down a staircase, their delicate frames contrasting with the solid, modernist-seeming gray concrete surrounding them. It is a picture as much about its subjects as it is about the context in which see them; and with their backs turned to us, is as much about what we see as what we don’t.

“He is very different, very intense,” says Agnès Sire, director of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, and curator of an upcoming retrospective of Larrain’s work at Les Rencontres d’Arles, “for me, he is [often] interested in what you don’t see.”

Larrain stopped taking pictures professionally in the 1970s and retreated to the Chilean countryside for a life of calm meditation (though he continued to take some pieces in the 1980s, they were photographs of objects, usually in his house, which he would send to friends in the mail). It is said that he withdrew because he, ever the humanitarian, became disillusioned with the often harsh world he was photographing, and felt powerless to help.

“He stopped his career. It was not bringing him what he [thought] it would bring to him,” explains Sire. “[He felt] the fact he photographed those kids will not change the fact that there will always be kids abandoned. Photography will not help save the planet.”

Sire adds that Larrain even rejected the idea of retrospectives for most of his later life, because they might force him out of his self-imposed retreat, and that his career was meteoric for a reason: he was a man who would only, and could only, follow his instincts. “He was unique,” she says, “he was really a free man.”

A retrospective of Sergio Larrain’s work formed part of Les Rencontres d’Arles 2013, exhibited from July 1 through Sept. 22, 2013.

Richard Conway is a member of’s photo staff. He’s previously written for LightBox on Erwin Olaf, Gary Winogrand, Ezra Stoller and Pete Hujar.

Reprint from, 26 June 2013, © 2017 Time Inc.

“Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium” — Retrospective at LACMA and the Getty

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989): Poppy, 1988. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Getty Research Institute Collection. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

“I am obsessed with beauty…” (Robert Mapplethorpe)


Retrospective; “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium”
March 15, 2016 – July 31, 2016
Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium is a major retrospective drawn from a 2011 joint acquisition of  the artist’s massive archives by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Presented simultaneously at both museums, the show features highlights from the 2011 joint acquisition. Later in 2016, the entire show will merge and travel to Montreal, then Sydney.

Of leather and lilies, whips and tulips — rough, raw, dark, sexual, pristine, sublime —  the controversial Robert Mapplethorpe strove for “perfection in form,” whether in his visual explorations of the sadomasochistic underground, or his equally charged floral works. A man driven and perhaps consumed by his passions, his work always stirs…

— Jules Cavanaugh

© 2016 I Require Art Studios, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Philippe Halsman: Jump!

The book: Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book, Publisher: Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959.

“In a jump, the subject, in a sudden burst of energy, overcomes gravity. He cannot simultaneously control his expressions, his facial and limb muscles. The mask falls. The real self becomes visible.” (Philippe Halsman)


Philippe Halsman (American, born Latvian; Magnum photographer; 1906–1979) was a preeminent photographer, portraitist, of cultural icons — from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley to Robert Oppenheimer. Life Magazine featured his photos of 20th century leaders and luminaries on their cover a record 101 times.

Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, he adopted a habit, a “hobby” as he called it, of asking his stellar subjects at the end of their portrait session to do something silly, irrational really… to jump. And they did! Such was the warmth and persuasive power of Halsman over even the most reserved scientist, politician or monarch. His objective was simple: to capture an unguarded moment of his photographic subject’s carefully crafted and polished public image.

Published in 1959, Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book, shares the memorable and joyful results of his “hobby.”