Photo of the Week: Bernard Gotfryd photographs

[East New York courtyard.], 1970 ca, v1987.3.6; Bernard Gotfryd color slides and photographs, v1987.3; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[East New York courtyard.], 1970 ca, v1987.3.6; Bernard Gotfryd color slides and photographs, v1987.3; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Bernard Gotfryd color slides and photographs is one of my favorite collections at Brooklyn Historical Society. Gotfryd’s photographs capture Brooklyn street scenes with children playing, people sitting on stoops, and sidewalk activity from 1965 to 1983. The photo of the week is an image from this collection that depicts people cleaning up a courtyard in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. Gotfryd was a photojournalist, trained to tell stories through photographs. This photograph stands out to me for many reasons: the composition, the charming detail of the kids in the window, but also the powerful story it tells about East New York. This Brooklyn neighborhood was hit hard by 20th century urban decline, segregation, and deindustrialization and this photograph depicts one example of the grassroots efforts by the community to clean up the neighborhood.

Bernard Gotfryd was a professional photographer and staff photojournalist at Newsweek for over 30 years. He was born in Poland in 1924 and entered a photography apprenticeship at the start of WWII. He became involved with the Polish resistance and was later imprisoned for his involvement. By the end of the war, he had survived imprisonment in six different concentration camps. In 1945, he immigrated to the United States and continued his photography pursuit while serving in the U.S. Army. Gotfryd traveled all over the world while working at Newsweek, documenting people, places, and events. We were sad to hear that Gotfryd passed away last summer at age 92. At Brooklyn Historical Society, we have 174 photographs by Gotfryd. This collection is not digitized, but we would love for you to visit the Othmer Library and view this collection in person.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  library@brooklynhistory.org

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