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

October 21, 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.

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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’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 three forms of family gatherings. Remember, the images are from the mid-20th century, but their meaning is for today and tomorrow.


All dressed up, with a new toy: a kid without a party, a common scene in April 2020. Early this year, many celebrations were limited to waiting for people to come by and shout or wave from afar.


Now we’re getting somewhere: Possible, if done carefully, in October 2020. A birthday party outdoors, with not many guests and some social distancing, might be an acceptable risk. But that won’t work in the winter.


The real thing. What we hope to get back to. Indoors, crowded table, small room, breathing each other’s air.

Getting the Kids Together

Just a few little ones: siblings — and maybe a close cousin — at most in April, 2020.


A few more cousins: possible, but only in the best of circumstances, in October 2020. Just a quick line-up for the traditional photo, but most of the time keep the kids moving, separated, masked or outside. And only if all have been tested recently or are very sure they haven’t been exposed and your area has very low infection rates, and … and … and.


The whole gang, what we hope to get back to. Herding cats, but still a joy.

Family Gatherings

Just the immediate family (and pets): no problem in April 2020.


Grandma and another adult or two. Possible, but (again) only under the best of circumstances, in October 2020.


The whole gang: what we hope to get back to. If you’ve got a family like this, it might be some time before you all safely get together under one (small) roof.

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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