Arlene Gottfried has a fantastic book called Sometimes Overwhelming of vintage portraits and street
photographs that’s just hit the shelves, via powerHouse. Arlene’s catalogue of characters depicts a NYC that’s MIA. Her collection of both faces and faded fashion works on that nostalgic, where-have-they-gone level, as well as on the pure photographic that’s-a-tremendous-picture level.
From Coney Island (when Coney Island was Coney Island) to back rooms at Studio 54, Gottfried’s view isn’t that of a voyeur, but of a dedicated, active participant. You get the sense that Gottfried didn’t necessarily leave her house to go get the picture wherever that picture might be, but that she lived her life with gusto and was ready for the pictures when the pictures came to her. Which in no way is a lessening of her skill — the book has a steadfast belief in the power of the portrait; that the connection between photographer and subject is primary, and is a pathway to rich insight and understanding.
Here are a few clips from an interview I had with Arlene last week. Thanks again to Arlene and to powerHouse for facilitating this. For more discussions on 2point8, including Joel Meyerowitz, Richard Kalvar and Gus Powell, see 2point8 discussions.
Arlene has a show of primarily color work going up at Alice Austen in Staten Island from March 6th through May 11th. The show will have an opening (book signing and artist lecture, too) on March 30th.
I’d be most appreciative to a 2point8 reader who’d be willing to transcribe the audio files above. Mail me at whileseated at gmail dot com, and thanks.