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

October 20, 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.

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.

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

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’s photos illustrate this week’s 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 selections take a look at some recreation and fun activities. Remember, the images are from the mid-20th century, but their meaning is for today and tomorrow.


A deserted park and lake: a common scene in April 2020. This scene looks — and is — serene and beautiful. But we had too much of it, and it stopped looking beautiful, because of its terrible cause.


Only a few and not too close together: Some facilities have opened with limited visiting in October 2020.


Concerts for hundreds: what we hope to get back to.


Caution: no diving. Pools closed, indoors or out, in April 2020.


Open to a few: Some swimming is now allowed, but controlled, limited and supervised in October 2020.


Free swim, spectators and visitors included. What we hope to get back to.

Having Fun

You call this fun? Our options were very limited in April 2020. Reading, TV, the internet — same people (if any), same place, all the time.


A game for two: Checkers can be played again, October 2020. Realistically, this scene should include masks and not have others so close.


Now this looks like fun: the kind of enjoyment we hope 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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