A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side

Born in a Hester Street flat to Russian immigrant parents, Rebecca Lepkoff came of age during the Depression—and became a keen observer of street life in her Lower East Side neighborhood.

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“I really enjoyed all the people and what they were doing. I was into loving the streets,” she told the Daily News in an interview last March. “Everyone was outside: the mothers with their baby carriages, and the men just hanging out. The apartment houses were too small to stay inside.”

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A member of the New York Photo League, a photographer’s cooperative, Lepkoff gained a rep for her tender glimpses of mid-century life between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges: a world of El trains and corner stores, of pushcart vendors and laundry lines.

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Her portraits of children entertaining themselves on front stairs and sidewalks capture something lost in contemporary New York: a freedom kids used to have to create and explore without being watched by adults.

“The kids played in the street,’” she told the Daily News. “They didn’t stay home. There weren’t many playgrounds. So they made up their own games, and they’d find sticks and whatever.”

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Lepkoff still takes pictures, and her work is enjoying more notoriety, thanks to recent exhibits at the Tenement Museum and the Jewish Museum.

Through January 4, some of her work can be seen at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservatory‘s exhibit “On the Cusp of Change: The LES, 1935-1975.”

[Photos copyright Rebecca Lepkoff]

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5 Responses to “A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    She also has these amazing pics, I’ve loved and admired them for years
    http://www.rebeccalepkoff.com/1940gallery2.html

  2. A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side « Ephemeral New York « The Quotidian Hudson Says:

    [...] A photographer’s poetic, playful Lower East Side « Ephemeral New York. [...]

  3. Upstate Ellen Says:

    Wonderful photos! Thank you.

  4. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    Gorgeous! Just magnificent! I had never come across Lepkoff’s work before, and now I am searching feverishly for more of her!

  5. John Says:

    A copy of the Pig was in Strawbridges 8th & Market sts in Phila. It may still be in the 1st fl lobby today

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