In 2011 Arlene Gottfried told Paul Moakley, a photo editor at TIME, “My mother used to say ‘Arlene–just don’t wander!’ Then I started wandering, but I got a camera because it gave it a little more meaning…a life of wandering is really what it all is.”
Through April 28, 2018, a selection of Gottfried’s work from the 1970s – 90s is on display at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York. The exhibition, which is titled A Lifetime of Wandering, includes black and white, color and Polaroid images.
Gottfried, a native New Yorker, passed away in 2017 at age 66 from complications of breast cancer. While she freelanced for publications such as The New York Times, LIFE, Time and Newsweek, she is best known for her images of New York City street life. Gottfried’s archive includes famous faces like Stevie Wonder and Rick James, but she was first and foremost a “photographer of the under-represented and underprivileged” states the press release, adding, “It was Gottfried’s identification with her subjects that truly set her above the rest.”
Gottfried’s penchant for wandering took her to all corners of New York, including Upper Manhattan gospel churches where her powerful singing earned her the label, “The Singing Photographer.” She delicately photographed heroin addicts living in the Lower East Side and was accepted into the Nuyorican culture downtown. For years she documented her friend Midnight as he struggled with mental illness. She also photographed three generations of women in her family.
Gottfried’s work did not draw attention until the 1990s, when she was in her 50s. Between 1999 and 2015 she published five monographs of her work.
Gottfried is featured in the 2017 film “Gilbert,” a documentary about her younger brother Gilbert Gottfried, the comedian. Her work is held in the collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Jewish Museum, The New York Public Library, and others.
Arlene Gottfried: “Nuyorican” Retrospective
On the Streets with Jamel Shabazz and Shawn Theodore
Obituary: Street Photographer Arlene Gottfried, 66 (for PDN subscribers; login required)