Bacalaitos and Fireworks

January 20 - February 25 2017


Arlene Gottfried's photographic work "Bacalaitos and Fireworks" documents the Puerto Rican community of her native New York. For forty years, she was a frequent part of that community, which saw her beginnings in photography and which in some ways became a second family to her over the years.  This work in colour shows some of the same qualities of observation as her series "Sometimes Overwhelming" with its detached gaze that is both empathetic and tinged with humour. These photographs are directly in line with the works of Bruce Wrighton, Tom Arndt and Homer Sykes whom we champion at our gallery. The prints on display are exceptional quality period Cibachrome. It is thanks to Laurence Cornet's involvement that we have now been able to dedicate a second exhibit to Arlene Gottfried.

Press kit


From my window on New York City’s Lower East Side, I could look out and see the Puerto Rican culture I encountered over 30 years earlier, around the same time I began photographing. One night I heard a street vendor on the corner of Avenue C and East 3rd Street calling «  bacalaitos and fireworks », bacalaitos, a fried cod fish indigenous to Puerto Rico, and fireworks, for the Fourth of July weekend. This juxtaposition became etched in my mind - representative of an immigrant population on the streets of America.

The wave of Puerto Rican immigration to America began in the 1950s,  with individuals seeking the promise of a better life. The incoming families moved into many different urban areas including the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up. I took to the streets with my friends and neighbors, where I learned to dance salsa and speak some Spanish, and when I picked up a camera, my friends in the neighborhood became my subjects.

My involvement with the Latino Community has intensified over the years and continues to be very personally important. The work collected here stands as witness to the negative effects of poverty, revealing the pain and alienation, neglect, unexpected pregnancy, single motherhood, drug addiction, crime, incarceration, and the extremely high mortality rate among young people affecting the Puerto Rican community in New York City.

However this work also shows the spirit of a people with a powerful passion for life.

Those who survive the ghetto rely on a vibrant and intimate community to help overcome the obstacles and the struggles of everyday living.

Arlene Gottfried