Chosen for Mom, by Doris Adler, 2003; Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives photographs, 2007.041, Box 1; Brooklyn Historical Society.
This post was authored by BHS Library and Archives processing intern Melissa Aaronberg. Melissa processed the Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives photographs in December 2015, which are now open and available to the public in our library. For more information on the photographs, please see the collection’s finding aid.
In 2007, the former President of Positive Focus, Inc., Lorrie Palmer, donated seventeen photograph albums from their 2003 exhibition, Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives, to Brooklyn Historical Society. Positive Focus, Inc., was a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting artists that has since ceased operation.
Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives was a celebration of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods and residents. These photographs capture every day moments in these residents’ lives, and imbue them with a sense of wonder. Subjects were photographed in many Brooklyn neighborhoods including DUMBO, East New York, and just about everywhere in between. The photographs include both black-and-white and color prints. The ethnic diversity of Brooklyn is represented thoroughly. Viewers can take a brief peek into the lives of Hasidic schoolchildren in Williamsburg, Russian ladies in Brighton Beach, and Latino teenagers in Sunset Park, all in one collection.
Untitled (Pacific St. subway, 6:15 pm), by Karen Stead Baigrie, 2003; Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives photographs, 2007.041, Box 1; Brooklyn Historical Society.
This collection includes both professional and amateur photographers who offer unique perspectives on what it means to live in and experience Brooklyn. Many are native New Yorkers, but others call Brooklyn their adoptive home.
I will profile one photographer here. Takeshi Yamada, originally from Osaka, Japan, moved to Coney Island in 2002. He first came to the United States in 1983 to study art at the California College of Art and Crafts in Oakland. In an interview with historian Amanda Deutch for the Coney Island History Project, he opined that “I didn’t choose Coney Island – it chose me.” The spectacle and “step-right-up” nature of Coney Island suits him well (speaking of suits, Yamada is easily spotted strolling through Coney Island in a black tuxedo and top hat). He tells Deutch that he was inspired to move to Coney Island after attending a show by Bobby Reynolds, an entertainer devoted to preserving the tradition of the sideshow and circus.
Yamada and Horseshoe crab, by Takeshi Yamada, 2003; Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives photographs, 2007.041, Box 4; Brooklyn Historical Society.
As an artist, Yamada is fascinated by taxidermy and ocean creatures. His Museum of Wonders, which mixes taxidermy with the traditions of traveling freak shows, was on display for more than four years at the Coney Island Library on Mermaid Avenue. Yamada’s submission to “Real Brooklyn” is in keeping with his ocean themes. This photograph shows Yamada holding up a horseshoe crab on a Coney Island beach. Although the crab obscures his face, his clothing, the sand, and the boardwalk attractions are visible. The photograph captures the fun loving nature not only of Yamada, but of Coney Island itself.
Yamada is just one of over one hundred photographers whose work is featured in this collection. The photographs in Real Brooklyn, a day in our lives will be of interest to scholars and anyone with a love of all things Brooklyn.
Source: Yamada, Takeshi. Cony Island History Project. Interview by Amanda Deutch. http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/oral-history-archive/takeshi-yamada