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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: 12 photos of ‘Odd ads and intriguing images’

October 12, 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:

This week’s posts break new ground. For 23 weeks and over 500 photos I’ve shown almost nothing commercial. That’s because I’m connecting my father’s work back to its roots – Brooklyn, the Eagle, public services, nonprofit institutions and developing his talent. It’s also because I’ve come to learn that his most artistic and interesting work was from these early Brooklyn years.

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But most of his career was in Manhattan as a commercial photographer. In that work he showed plenty of the same quality, wit and beauty, but in a much different setting. The focus was not streets, people, celebrities, buildings, bridges. The work was mostly indoors with products and set scenes designed to tell a story or show something in an interesting way.

This week I’ll show some of that work. Unlike almost everything I’ve shown before, most of these pictures were created for explicit commercial purposes. Some seem to be primarily artistic expression, but they were often also displaying a specific object or scene for a paying client. I have selected just a small portion of the advertising work he did, since that was never to be the focus of this project with the Eagle. But to fully represent the scope of my father’s career, one week of selections from the commercial years seems warranted – and worthwhile for the quality of the pictures in their own right.

Today’s photos:

I start the week with a dozen advertising photos. Occasionally the product or concept being advertised is clear; many times it needs context to reveal itself; sometimes I don’t know what it is. I also don’t often have dates when the photos were taken nor do I know where they were published or used.

Many images use an unexpected element to grab attention, some have an eye-catching focus, and others are just straight-up displays of a product, with or without people. The scenes are designed to speak for themselves. I’ll only add brief comments.

A strange snack on the subway


Minimalist studio sets

The four scenes above use subtle hints to place the characters in the setting that’s causing their difficulty. What they advertise is anybody’s guess.


A thorough exam

I think this was for internal use at Mount Sinai or Lebanon Hospital.


“Electronic brain”

That’s how this front and rear view of a mid-fifties computer was identified on the envelope that held these negatives.



A card game, with a tropical theme, that never caught on.



There was a “this” week and a “that” week, a Miss “this” and a Miss “that.” Here it’s anti-freeze, right about this time of year.


Easy come, easy go

A gentleman arrives, checks his horse with the doorman, enjoys a visit, then waves good-bye.

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 24: Photos of ‘Odd ads and intriguing images’

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