Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Eight photos from the ‘Variety’ collection

October 8, 2020 Phil Kaufman
Share this:

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’ll continue this week with a display similar to last week’s. Instead of focusing on a single theme for the whole week, each day has its own focus.

Again, variety is the spice of life.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Today’s photos:

Today’s photos are a mix. The first four seem to have nothing in common, but to me they are as similar as they are different. Scroll down and look them over, then see if my take on what unites them makes any sense to you.

The second group of four pictures shows a few scenes from the demolition of the Sixth Avenue elevated train in 1939. The train opened in 1878 and ran from Rector Street in lower Manhattan north to 58th Street. As more underground subways were built in the 20th century, the city gradually removed most of its above-ground trains.

Nurses at lunch: Probably Mount Sinai Hospital, undated


Reflection on a rainy evening: Ripley’s men’s clothing store, Dec. 23, 1947, Delancey Street near Essex Street


Mother, child, ducks: Unidentified location, undated

No date or location needed because this scene could happen – and has happened – anywhere at any time.


A stroll to nowhere: Barren Island, Brooklyn, c.1936

These people and their dog no doubt had a destination and a purpose, but it’s not clear from this scene. Photos of people from behind sometimes say more than they do from the front.

Hospital lunchroom, city street after dark, a lake in a park, and a crude boardwalk over marshland. What do they have in common? I call it mood or atmosphere. I’ve shown many mood-drenched Kaufman photos over these months. “Quiet Streets” that began my Eagle posts are all more images of mood than they are of specific streets. Several of the Fulton Fish Market scenes overflow with atmosphere, as do many others under numerous headings.

These four are all atmospheric in that they convey more feeling than information. Like non-verbal social communication, the importance of intangibles in photography can be overlooked or underestimated. Lighting, composition, visual context, luck – whatever it takes to evoke mood, my father had it.


Big building, big steel: Lower Sixth Avenue, 1939


The tracks from above: Lower Sixth Avenue, 1939


Tons on a trailer: Lower Sixth Avenue, 1939

Lowering and positioning this enormous item on a rather outclassed-looking trailer seems like a demanding feat. But I wonder how many such pieces of steel had to be detached, moved, lowered, secured and driven away to disassemble four or five miles’ worth.


A busy scene: Lower Sixth Avenue, 1939

There’s a lot going on here. In fact, it’s so busy that it’s not easy to grasp, and I doubt my father considered this a good picture. But I chose it for just that reason: it shows several parts of the process all at once.

There are sparks in a couple of places where blow torches were active; that must have been constant. One of the continuous lines of steel components is being secured to a crane for removal. The horizontal surface may have been a station, but in any event, it’s solid and presents a different deconstruction challenge. It also displays the unending daytime darkness of the street below an elevated structure.

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 collections 22 and 23: Photos from the ‘Variety’ collection

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

1 Comment

  1. Barbara Niss

    I am the Archivist at The Mount Sinai Hospital. In looking at the image of the nurses, I would say this was not taken here. They seem to be student nurses wearing their school’s unique uniform, which does not match Sinai’s uniform. Also – sadly – we did not have any cafeterias that were above ground with windows.