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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Nine photos from the ‘Past, present, future’ collection

October 19, 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:

Back in April, when I began the “Kaufman’s Brooklyn” display, we were at the depth of the virus pandemic. Here we are six months later, and New York has had excellent success at reducing its infection rates, until some recent spikes in areas of Brooklyn and Queens.

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

Before I wrap up this half-year project next week, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the changes we’ve experienced in fighting COVID-19. I’ll do that by using my father’s pictures to illustrate.

I’ll celebrate the successes since April by showing pictures from the mid-20th century that mimic the look of our life at its worst point earlier this year. Then I’ll contrast that with an image suggesting how we look now. But I’ll also add an image to represent what “normal” was before the pandemic and what we hope to get back to – all using pictures from long ago. That third picture will remind us that we’re still a long way from where we want to be and that sacrifices, patience and adaptations for safety are still very much needed.

Today’s photos:

Each day, I’ll illustrate that pattern – the bleak look, the improved look, and the “normal” look that we’ve lost but hope to recover – in a few distinct areas of life. Today’s selection takes a look at schools, shopping and socializing. Remember, the images are from the mid-20th century, but their meaning is for today and tomorrow.


An empty school on a deserted street, a common scene in April, 2020.


A careful lesson with a live teacher. Tentatively underway in October, 2020.


Shoulder to shoulder by the dozens — what we want to get back to.


Lots of stores, almost nobody shopping. In April 2020, shopping was only for essentials and often for pick-up or delivery.


Some activity: In October 2020, people are out and about, but with limits. My observation, however, is that we’ve moved a little farther than this on shopping streets. OK or risky?


Ohrbach’s entrance, overwhelmed. Here’s what we want to get back to. Looks like Black Friday before there was such a thing.


A lovely place to socialize, but woefully unused and unclear. A common scene in April, 2020.


Enjoy yourself with your partner, but keep your distance from everyone else — ground rules (or roof rules) for October, 2020.


Let’s party! What we want to get back to.

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 25: Photos from the ‘Past, present, future’ collection

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