Arlene Gottfried, the legendary American photographer famed for her street shots of New York’s under-represented communities, is being celebrated in a new exhibition at the city’s Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery.
The show, titled A Lifetime of Wandering, aims to pay tribute to Gottfried, who passed away at the age of 66 last August. It will include a varied selection of her black and white, colour and Polaroid photographs, all taken between the ’70s and ’90s.
A New York native, Gottfried grew up above a hardware store in Coney Island, before moving to Crown Heights at the age of nine. She became fascinated by the neighbourhood’s dominant Puerto Rican community, and – after being given an old camera by her father – began to take pictures in a bid to better understand the vibrant local culture. This eventually led to her taking a place at the Fashion Institute of Technology to study photography (where she was, at the time, the only woman in her class).
“My mother used to say ‘Arlene – don’t just wander!’” she told TIME magazine in 2011. “Then I started wandering, but I got a camera because it gave it a little more meaning… A life of wandering is really what it all it is.”
The photographer’s wanderings led her to shoot for The New York Times, Life, Newsweek and TIME. But it was her ability to empathise and identify with people from all walks of life that gave her an edge over her contemporaries, as well as her voracious curiosity to find out more about her hometown’s diverse communities.
“I think I wander around and I see things that just speak to me, in one way or another,” she added. “There are things that you try to say something about, or a moment you want to hold.”
Arlene Gottfried’s A Lifetime Of Wandering is on show at New York’s Daniel Cooney Gallery until April 28.