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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Four photos from the ‘Skylines’ collection

August 11, 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:

I hope you enjoy this week’s selections. Of course, I hope that every week. But this time is different because I’ve never done a week with this much apparent repetition. I say “apparent” because, although each picture is different from all the others, they’re all variations of the same two scenes.

As you saw above, the theme for the week is “Skylines.” As rich as the New York skyline was even all those years ago, there were really only two basic possibilities: either Lower Manhattan or Midtown Manhattan. This week’s pictures are split almost evenly between the two. But, as you’ll see, the similar scenes become very different from each other as a result of perspective, time of day, composition, cropping and editing. With all those variables, it’s often hard to decide which I like the most from among several shots of the same scene.

Some of the views of Midtown were taken from Brooklyn, others from the Upper East Side of Manhattan or from Queens. The ones from Manhattan and Queens create an unusual appearance. From their northeast angle, the Chrysler Building is closer than the Empire State Building and it therefore looks distinctly taller, and, with one building behind the other, they look closer together than usual. A more common Manhattan skyline view is often taken from a square-on perspective, showing the two buildings separated by their full north-south distance and with the Empire State clearly – and accurately – the taller of the two.

As far as I know, none of these pictures were taken for a client or were ever sold for commercial purposes. Many have notes with basic information, and my father had large prints of several which he used as samples. But there’s no evidence of any being submitted to the Eagle for publication, and none have the name of an ad agency or client. As I said about the very first post I did back in April, “Quiet Streets,” my father apparently took these purely for his own professional development and pleasure. It’s my pleasure to offer them for your pleasure so many years after he took them.

Today’s photos:

Today’s four images include two of Midtown and two of Downtown. As promised, there will be several of each this week, but they will all have their own character.

Midtown from East 57th Street, twilight, November 24, 1945


Midtown from East 57th Street, evening, November 24, 1945

These two come from the same spot and show the same scene, an hour or so apart. As the light fades, the scene is altered. Which do you like better?


Dark Downtown skyline, from St. George roof, 1942

Of all the pictures I have of Lower Manhattan from this roof, this is the only one that was taken well after sundown. The buildings are mostly dark, with relatively few windows lit. But the skyline in silhouette against the still-light-enough sky, plus the railing and “Caution” notice, make for a wonderful combination. Finally, seeing across the tip of the island and the Hudson River in this dim light allows a rare view into New Jersey.


The group on the roof, Downtown in the background, 1942

We face a little to the northwest and see the profiles of people looking at something a little to the southwest. The geometry works perfectly. The buildings provide the background, making the people somehow more prominent. I love that there’s a pair of saddle shoes among the suits and hats.

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 15: Photos from the ‘Skylines’ collection

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