Leo Goldstein (1901–1972) was born in Kishinev in the Bessarabian region of Czarist Russia. To flee the Anti-Jewish pogroms, his family settled on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1906. The fourth of 13 children, Goldstein went to work at an early age to help support his large family. A natural born artist, at a young age, he studied sculpting in stone, plaster and wood, which resulted in a keen eye for detail. Goldstein later took up photography when he joined the Photo League in the late 1940s.
Similar to his colleagues in the league, Goldstein became interested in social documentary work. Heavily influenced by the work of Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott among other members, he turned his lens to the immigrant and the poor. From 1949 to several years later, using his second-hand Rolleiflex twin-lens camera, Goldstein photographed East Harlem, where his family had once lived for a time.
As he was no stranger to the neighborhood, Goldstein’s photographic work of the streets, the neighbors, the children, the tenements became much more intimate. Take a look back through 20 black-and-white photographs below: