Leo Goldstein – East Harlem


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Leo Goldstein – East Harlem
Publisher: powerHouse Books, 2019
Hardcover, 160 pages, English
Size: 27.9×22.8cm
New in seal


For some 70 years, Leo Goldstein’s East Harlem body of work remained mostly untouched and unseen. The silver gelatin prints were catalogued in 2016, and a selection is gathered here for the first time. The photographs were taken over a number of years, beginning in 1949 when Goldstein was a member of the Photo League.


The East Harlem corpus, edited by Régina Monfort, represents an important and unique addition to the photographic history of New York City. Because there are no negatives in existence, it was of particular importance to preserve the images in book form and make them available to the public.


The selected images reflect the postwar years in the East Harlem community, which would grow into a center of Puerto Rican culture and life in the U.S. From the families portrayed gathering on stoops, to the kids at their shoeshine stations, to youths playing ball in the streets, to posters on neighborhood walls, Goldstein’s images of East Harlem provide a window into the socio-economic, cultural, and political landscape of the time.


LEO GOLDSTEIN was born in 1901 in Kishinev in the Bessarabian region (now Moldova) of Czarist Russia. Fleeing the pogroms, his family settled in New York City in 1906. He was the fourth child of 13 and went to work at a young age to help support the family. Leo was a talented amateur sculptor and artist, taking up photography when he joined the Photo League in the late 1940s. Goldstein embraced the social documentary tradition of the League and was influenced by legendary members Paul Strand, Lewis Hine, and Berenice Abbott, among others. He died in New York City in 1972.


A small number of Goldstein’s images have appeared in exhibits and publications of Photo League work, beginning with the seminal exhibit “This Is the Photo League” (1948–1949) and later in the book, This Was the Photo League, published in 2000. His work was included in “The Photo League, 1936–1951,” an exhibition organized by Howard Greenberg at the Photofind Gallery in Woodstock, New York in 1985. One of Goldstein’s images was also included in the 2011–12 exhibit at the Jewish Museum entitled “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936–1951.” Leo Goldstein’s work is represented by the Howard Greenberg Gallery.

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