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Throughout its history, New York’s Lower East Side has reflected the cultural demographics of the city. In 1890, Jacob Riis published How The Other Half Lives, a photographic indictment that exposed the deplorable and dangerous living and working conditions of newly arrived immigrants who had come to America seeking a better life. Faced with circumstances that in many cases were worse than what they left behind, these immigrants were championed in Riis’s book. Subsequently, the Lower East Side fostered a rich cultural environment for immigrant life, becoming the home to many ethnic groups as they settled and brought with them their customs, foods, and beliefs for most of the 20th century.
David Scheinbaum and Janet Russek started photographing the area in 1999, and have chronicled a time of extraordinary transformation. Undergoing rapid gentrification into a “hipster” neighborhood, the future of the Lower East Side is now unclear. In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the neighborhood to its list of America’s Most Endangered Places, and many believe the cultural institutions and ideologies that established the Lower East Side are disappearing forever. With this book, Scheinbaum and Russek capture remnants of history through their intimate portraits of traditional businesses, places of worship, people, and the old world architecture that have defined the Lower East Side for generations.
Hardcover book, 2017
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