Brooklyn native Lucille Fornasieri Gold started taking photographs with a 35 mm camera in 1969, capturing the striking juxtapositions of urban life in a city defined by ethnic, cultural and economic diversity. Her large and impressive body of work laid mostly hidden for decades, until they were recently archived by the Brooklyn Historical Society. Lucille’s photos will be featured in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society June 26, 2014 – February 4, 2015. Over the next year, Brooklyn Industries will be releasing five limited edition T-shirts, each featuring a different photographic print from Gold’s collection.
We recently visited Lucille before her big exhibition opening in her apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn which she shares with her longtime husband, Jack. On a dining room table the now 84 year old Lucille laid out stacks and stacks of prints, along with an impressive spread of biscotti, cakes, and coffee. Growing up, she had been surrounded by, and surrounded herself with the arts – her father was a professional sculpture and Lucille used to hang out around the Art Students League. “I picked up photography because, well, I just liked it,” she recalled. “In the 80s, these well known photographers like Ken Heyman used to take pupils on and I’d attend their classes. I also collected books by some of my favorites like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans… I just liked it. I shot all the time. I made a darkroom in my kitchen and processed my own pictures.” As we rifled through her old photographs of an endlessly diverse cast of characters from Brooklyn in the 70s and 80s, from Civil Rights protesters to dolled up old ladies to strip club dancers, there’s a real sense that what peered through the camera eye was objective – without bias and pure. “I never thought about commercial applications. I can’t even believe you’re putting them on shirts now. Do you think they’ll sell?”
“That one,” she pointed to a picture noticing that I was staring at it intently. “That was on Flatbush. Girls used to push their carriages around with just dolls in them. I used to walk the streets of Flatbush, Brooklyn, and go to different areas of the city. I like what the camera does. It has an unbiased eye. But you do need the instinct to sense the natural rhythm, and you empathize with it. I can’t say that I can judge because you don’t know what’s coming in a sense, nor can I judge other people who are using the idiom in a different way – I expect something new – and that’s where the creative individual appears and synthesizes the new idiom.”
A photo of Lucille Gold in her younger years.
As the years passed, Lucille walked the streets less and less, and the photos started turning into stacks. Binders and binders of slides began to pile up in her house, until her family members brought them to the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Museum. From that point on with the help of her encouraging husband who would often get up at four in the morning and scan until twelve at night, it was a race to get as much of her work out there as possible. Jack is literally unable to stop singing the praises of Lucille. “She won’t tell you how great this work is,” Jack informs us. “Stop it!” Lucille interjects. “I don’t want to talk about it. Do you want a martini?” she asks. “I’m frugal. I like martinis.”
Lucille Gold today