- In Pictures
- Meat Market
- Union Square
BY TEQUILA MINSKY | At age 96, the renowned photographer Rebecca Lepkoff can still be seen walking the New York streets and taking pictures. A member of the Photo League of the 1930s and ’40s, Lepkoff was born on Hester St. and grew up on the Lower East Side and was inspired by its tenement streets.
At the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, Kling & Niman Visitor Center, at 400 Grand St., a series of Lepkoff’s framed photos, perched on a jerry-rigged shelf, are on exhibition, sharing images of the times — and changing times — that inspired her. The exhibit runs through Dec. 30.
This recently opened Visitor Center welcomes guests prior to their going on walking tours of the Lower East Side. Just before the Nov. 11 opening of Lepkoff’s exhibition, two walking tours took place: “Bialystoker the Beautiful” and “Crossing Delancey.” Also, four Lower East Side Jewish women talked about their families in the presentation “Gals from the Hood.”
The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy’s mission is, in part, to raise public awareness of the neighborhood’s distinct cultural identity, with an aim to help preserve and make accessible the Jewish history and culture treasure trove that remains. The organization also encourages visitors of all ethnic backgrounds to preserve the oral histories of their families. Specific tours are listed on their Web site.
Lepkoff’s “On the Cusp of Change: Intimate photographic portraits from the Lower East Side 1960-1980” is showing in a perfect venue, a storefront center on Grand St. But she exhibits outside the neighborhood, too.
Lepkoff, who is represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, is in the traveling exhibit “The Radical Camera, New York’s Photo League (1936-1951)” that debuted at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. She is also in the documentary about the league, “Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York.” And she also has a book of her work, “Life on the Lower East Side: Photographs by Rebecca Lepkoff, 1937-1950” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010), now in its fifth printing and available, when not sold out, at the Tenement Museum on Orchard St.
The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, the Lower East Side became her turf — Yiddish and Hebrew signs, synagogues and the people among the pushcarts were part of the everyday life she captured on film. She lived in a potbelly stove flat on Cherry St. as a newlywed in 1942 and now lives in Harlem on 145th St. with her husband of 70 years, Eugene.
Lepkoff is one of 25 people profiled in a new book, “Lower East Side Oral Histories,” a compilation of interviews by Nina Howes, edited by Eric Ferrara. On Fri., Nov. 30, at 6 p.m., there will be a book signing and party at 62 E. Fourth St. Lepkoff will be present.