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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Two photos of ‘Small people in pairs’

June 24, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them. My father’s profile can be found here.

This week’s theme:

Last week, I displayed “People in pairs.” In many cases, there was a lot to say about the people featured — their careers, their relationships to each other, and details about their activities or the settings they were in. This week’s theme, “Small people in pairs,” sounds similar, but it’s really very different. In most cases, there’s not much to say about the photos’ subjects — maybe a bit of background, where they are, what they’re doing. But it’s mostly just interesting to look at and reflect a little on what kids of various ages are like.

I’ve tried to provide a variety of settings and circumstances, like I did with the adults last week. Though it wasn’t a major area of my father’s work, a number of his clients brought him into contact with young people — certainly enough to generate hundreds of interesting images of kids of all ages, who are all adorable.

Today’s photos:

Today’s two photos are of the biggest “small people” we’ll see this week. I guess they’d be called pre-teens or “tweens” today. They are residents of The Brooklyn Home for Children. The institution has existed since the mid 19th century, and is still going today, having experienced several transitions, mergers and name changes along the way. As we see it here, the Home had recently moved to new and modern quarters, with a focus on foster care and short-term housing for children of families in distress. The young people shown here have no visible signs of that distress. I find the expressions of the two pairs curious, so I offer a little guesswork about what they might mean.

Is something funny going on? March 15, 1942

These two boys look like they might be holding back laughter. The boy on the right certainly has his eye on the other fellow, whose muffled grin might signal something funny going on. Keeping whatever tickles them to themselves might be cause. For older children at The Brooklyn Home, supervised cottages provided a somewhat realistic home environment, with living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. This scene is a close-up of an image that shows that the boys are actually in a larger room with others.


I won’t laugh if you don’t, March 15, 1942

In the same “home” but in a different building, these two young girls are doing needlework, part of their curriculum in this 1940s Home for Children. Their smiles could be simple responses to a compliment or a funny remark. But they also could be holding back the giggles; the smiles look a little strained. This shot is a blow-up from an image that also includes four other girls and a dog. It’s even possible that they’re in on the same private story that’s amusing the boys next door.

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected]. I’d also be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.

Weekly collection 8: Photos of ‘Small people in pairs’

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