Arlene Gottfried's warm and cheerful photographs of ’70s and ’80s New York are suffused with nostalgia for those easy-going decades. She shows the Big Apple at its most diverse and colourful, a true social mosaic in which communities mix happily on Riis Park Beach, bodybuilders sitting next to Orthodox Jews or grandmothers next to hunky young men in their underpants (‘Angel and Woman on Boardwalk’).
Very much at ease with themselves, most of Gottfried’s posed subjects stare fixedly into the lens, as in the image of two androgynous brothers walking along Coney Island. One of them, in high, pleated trousers and balancing a toothpick between his lips, cuts a figure half way between John Wayne and Grace Jones, challenging onlookers in their preconceptions. It was a city in which liberty, sexual freedom and a certain casual indifference had hit a high, while the AIDS crisis lurked just around the corner. Often ominous in this regard, much of the photographer’s work affects the spectator through its stark emotional simplicity, like her loving family portraits, or the elusive shot of a woman’s face half concealed by a palm leaf.
TRANSLATION: HUW OLIVER