Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six photos of ‘A medley of bridges’

July 13, 2020 Phil Kaufman

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:

I’ve called this week’s display “A medley of bridges.” Bridges hold an important place in the progression of New York City’s infrastructural history, with the island of Manhattan located at the center of the growing city. Six major bridges now encircle Manhattan. Several smaller ones span the Harlem River, connecting Manhattan to the Bronx.

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The first bridge that connected surrounding areas to Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883. Three more went up from 1903 to 1909, and the last two were built in the 1930s. Three of the six connect Manhattan with Brooklyn, providing both travel convenience and beauty. They are also the only New York bridges that ever provided rail transit. (There are also four tunnels, one linking Manhattan with Brooklyn, one with Queens and two with New Jersey.)


Today’s photos:

As always, I’ve tried to choose a variety of photos for the week’s display. Several have the Brooklyn Bridge as a clear center of attention. Though it’s so iconic that all self-respecting New York photographers, and most tourists, capture its image, the beauty of the bridge has never dimmed.

Most of the other pictures this week have bridges included somewhat peripherally, adding interest while something else is the main attraction. In a couple of cases, a bridge is far in the background, but it is still a major focal point (like the parachute jump in couple of Coney Island scenes I showed last week).



Standing watch over his domain, February 12, 1948

The profile and overcoat on this officer make him seem as likely to be from the 1890s as the 1940s. Those powerful cables and bolts should help him feel secure as he enjoys the scene from high above the East River.

 

Irresistible photo op, undated

A beautiful backdrop for a portrait. Nothing more to say.

 

Brooklyn barge, and so much more, c. 1935

Maybe what makes this a favorite of mine is the reversal of roles. The object in the foreground – large, in focus, interesting in its own right – is actually secondary to the “so much more” in the background. The beautiful Manhattan Bridge span, with the Brooklyn Bridge mostly hidden behind it, frames the distant lower Manhattan skyline, which might rightly claim to be the primary attraction in this scene.

 

Brooklyn neighborhood, and so much more, c. 1935

The same role reversal plays out in this scene. The mix of squat buildings in the foreground set off the beauty behind them. This time we’re facing north from high above downtown Brooklyn, to see first the Brooklyn Bridge, then the Manhattan Bridge past it and finally the Empire State Building in the distance, towering over midtown Manhattan.

 

Not even 50 years ago, January 30, 1971

We’re facing uptown again, from below the Brooklyn Bridge, but at a more westerly angle. We can’t see the Manhattan Bridge and certainly not midtown. At first glance, the lower Manhattan scene looks like it could be from way back when, but several “newer” buildings – all right angles, looking like blocks – clearly indicate otherwise. When you start to focus on it, the mixed architecture is jarring, or at least it was to me.

 

Another icon of New York, May 22, 1957

This is one of those pictures I was referring to when I mentioned a bridge in the background adding some interest to the main attraction. (First of all, apologies for drifting out of Brooklyn; I will do that from time to time, but the photographer is always the same Brooklynite.) The UN Building is obviously the focal point of the picture. But that multi-named bridge upriver does contribute to the scene. (Multi-named in that it’s been known as the 59th Street Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge and now the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.)

My father was photographing the structural and cleaning work being done on the building. Notice the workers on a narrow scaffold about halfway up the near edge. Many of the other pictures show the work more closely, but I like this one for its combined scenic and quirky look.

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 http://yourartgallery.com/irvingkaufmanstudios. All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.


Weekly collection 11: Photos of ‘A medley of bridges’


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