Williamsburgh, Brooklyn is where it all started. This is the environment where some of his most exciting work was photographed. In Williamsburgh, he photographed images that define the metaphor “Life is Art”, as a statement of truth.
Here is where Lou Bernstein lived, raised his family, a place where his mother and father, sisters and brothers lived next door and around the corner. Williamsburgh, Brooklyn was a canyon of high rise tenement walk-up low income housing, close to transportation that would enable you to work anywhere within the five borough’s of New York City.
This was an ethnic diverse community of European Emigrants, African Americans, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Irish, and Puerto Rican Peoples, a melting pot of large families, with close old generational ties, all working hard and living in a harmonious neighboring atmosphere of respect and concern for each other, reminiscent of the family unit of the late 1940’s
This was an important era for Bernstein, his photography had great impact. Family, friends, acquaintances, the people and activities of Williamsburgh, Brooklyn were the subjects. If the topic was photography, Lou Bernstein was available to give his all, many times at the expense of his own family.
Williamsburgh, Brooklyn was “The Beginning”! This is where a journey started, that had lasted sixty-five years. When a young Lou Bernstein, looking for an identity to contribute something of value to the world, he dedicated his life to the love of photography as an art. Lou Bernstein seriously focused his expression of art, to the realities that confront our survival, moments in time, “Images of Life in the Universe”.
The following is a list, a memorandum of record. A compendium of subject matter, theme, topics, creating a vast inventory of original works totaling over 5,000 images photographed, printed and signed by Lou Bernstein over his lifetime of photography.
A short commentary explanation may accompany certain photographic themes.
An important part of the photographic legacy left by Lou Bernstein, include duplicate images that have been acquired and are part of the permanent collections and archives of the following prominent museums to name a significant few:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, New York -1955, 1959
Museum Chateau de Clervaux, Luxembourg-1964
University of Kansas Museum of Art, Kansas, Missouri -1970
University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona-1978
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas-1980
The International Center of Photography, New York City, New York-1992
The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio-2003
The Jewish Museum, New York City-2008
Lou Bernstein’s Family
Home Environment, Mother, Father, Sister’s Brothers, Candid Shots, Set Up Portraits of The Children, Irwin (aka Butch, Lou’s Son), Nieces and Nephews.
Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, New York
People, Children, and Activities of the Time Period.
Faces in the Crowd
The Informal Portrait, marked by the absence of formality, successfully captures the essence of the subject and communicates the sensitivity of the moment. The subjects are: Children, Family Members, Friends, People of the City, Artists, Authors, Critics, Actors, Firemen, Construction Workers, Dogs, Cats, Animals and Sea Life.
Vintage Images
Mixed Subjects, Luna Park, Coney Island, New York Street Scenes, People, and Children, Etc.
Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus
Clowns and Performers Backstage.
Music World - The International Language
Professional and Amateurs entertainers and dance images. Sammy Davis Jr., Max Kaminsky, PeeWee Russell, George Grunning at the Stuyvesant Casino, New York Mime Dance Improvisational Studio, Women’s senior harmonica class, street minstrels, musicians of the city, etc.
Barney’s Ark
Pony Foundation – Jack Klugman, Actor portrayed Barney in a film based on Barneys life. Images include interaction of the following animals. Horses, cats, dogs, ponies, foils, ducks, pogo a monkey, birds, roosters petunia a monkey, plus others and children, that constantly visited the Pony Foundation
The Hydrant Inferno
Edward Steichen acquired nine of the series of images, and one additional Image of Lou’s of a Crying Child, during his tenure as Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, for their permanent Collection and Archives in the 1950’s.
The Hydrant Inferno which simulates a Musical Dance of Distortion, was photographed by Lou Bernstein under available light conditions at approximately 9:30pm at nighttime. Lou was a master at available light, He preferred the medium to capture the drama of the moment.
The summer nights of 1947 in the canyon of street tenements of Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, New York was quite hot.
The streets and school yards of the neighborhoods were the playgrounds for the young aggressive street ruffians and teenagers, who would illegally open the street fire hydrants full force at night at a four corner intersection at South 3rd and Keap Street, Williamsburgh. They would knock out the bottom of a metal 30 gallon garbage can, creating a 30” cylinder. Then place the 30” cylinder over the open fire hydrant creating a forceful fountain that would project the water 15 to 20 feet into the air, returning in an impact of a storm that would drench the kids playing within it to cool off, allowing only enough of a light source from the car headlights to create the Dance of Distortion.
The multicultural residents attended this event and amusing show by bringing their chairs or standing to enjoy the antics of the kids, and the cool spray of cold water which at times would douse them to help them to cool off and get them through the heat of the night.
City Childs World
Children interacting and children with animals.
Relations of Various Animals
The behavior in nature between animals.
Photographs of Insects
Behavior of Insects
Nature Photography
Mating, Animals, Insects, and Sea Life
Rare moments in our universe
Ethnic People
Multicultural people, senior citizens and their activities.
Homeless People
Existing and living under an overpass and on the streets in New York City.
Still Life City Landscapes
Gargoyles, windows, doors, sun and clouds, reflections and faces in nature, a world in a bubble.
Religious Interpretations
Coney Island
Adults, Children, Boardwalk Spectators, Holiday Regatta, Net Fishing, Street Cleaners, Handball Players, Boxers on the Beach, Rescue, Sand Sculptures, Lifeguards, Boardwalk Buggy, Bathing Beauties, Carousels (Last Ride) Gypsy Fortune Teller, Etc. Diverse Subject Matter.
Coney Island
Steeplechase Park – The Human Whirlpool, aka, the Centrifugal Force Whirlpool Series.
Hiroshima Bread and Puppet Theatre
Street Parade and The Protesting of the Bombing of Hiroshima.
The Negro Baptismal
The Baptismal photographed on the beach at Coney Island, during the spring of 1960. This series and exhibit of more than 70 black and white images of the African American Baptismal Christian Sacrament, marked by ritual use of water, admitting recipients to purification, sanctification, initiation and/or Christian renaming. This exhibit was extended after running during Black History Month, February 2004 for another six (6) months till August 2004 due to the interest of the public. Read the attached announcements, media reviews in Section Six.
New York Scenes
Construction workers, sights and structures, Police, Rescues, Hard Hat, Street Protest, Train track men, Couples in love, Street people, Fire Escapes in Summer, Diverse subjects, etc.
Rooftop Photography
Tar Beach during the summer, etc., Photographed from the Williamsburgh Bridge and Rooftops of buildings.
Beggars of New York
Poor street people peddling goods and asking for small change, some playing instruments.
The Fulton Fish Market
South Street, New York City, Packers, Laborers, Homeless street people who survive the elements of the outdoors, living off small scraps and handouts they obtain from the Fulton Fish Market, People, Cats, Piers, Warehouses, Crates, and Still Life images.
Parks of New York
Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn; Central Park, New York City, Bronx Park, New York, also Children, People, Lovers, Animals, Musicians.
“Love Makes The World Go Round” - Universal Interrelated Phenomena
Adults, Children, Whales, Sea Life, Animals Nautilus, Dolphins, evolution is natural on our intimate planet. The dwellers of our earth are creatures of diversity. We are all inhabitants of the sphere of living, entities that must co-exist in an atmosphere of understanding, communication and love. Our responsibility as keepers and tenants of our specific environments, is to nurture, educate, respect all life forms, to perpetuate eternal growth for all living organisms, their right to evolve and occupy a place within the ecosystem of our world, contributing, what we were designated to sanction.
This exhibit visually communicates the many diverse life forms that inhabit our domain and is dedicated to the above premise. True Artists are committed to continually explore new experiences to maintain a constant path of prolific expression.
Lou Bernstein, quoted in a 1955 article written by Daniel Dixon of Magnum Photo Agency, for Modern Photography about his photography, stated, “Usually it’s the photographer, not the material, that wears out first. Me, I’m still a long way from being worn out. Frankly, I think there’s as much variety in my own back yard as there is in a thousand miles of travel. Love, Hate, Joy, Grief, Comedy, and Tragedy – it’s all right here”, he says. “All you have to do is look for it. Why go any further”.
Bernstein’s emphasis was vigilance to see, watch, try to anticipate what may happen in the next moment, be involved emotionally. This will assist you in understanding to pursue a more coherent Photographic image, and most of all body of work.
A study photographing the behavior, communication and existence of the seagulls and how they scavenge for food, fight in flight, dive and interact.
The Underwater Society
Quoted from a July 26, 1992 article, written by John Durniak, New York Times, freelance writer, editor and consultant on photography. The following is taken out of context. “Lou shoots scientifically revealing pictures. His photographs reveal the lives and social structures of the undersea inhabitants. His work includes pictures of foragers as they search for food, portraits of isopods that look like artists” illustrations of creatures from another planet, and images of dolphins using their mouths to hold on to each other the way that, he said, “lovers might hold hands”.
Louis E. Garibaldi, the past Director of the New York Aquarium said, “Many of Lou’s images are short-lived phenomena – unique interaction between whales, between dolphins. One would have to wait hundreds of hours for them to occur”.
The complete article is attached for your personal review. The following body of work, photographed over more than three decades, under available light conditions to capture the atmosphere of the natural great oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, is a one of a kind magnificent photographic exhibition of art and science.
It is a rare window on an existence where children and adults can together witness a society of beings, large and small, living together, caring for each other, communicating in very special ways in an aquatic environment.
Ballet of the Courting Beluga Whales
Beluga Whales in a Ballet of foreplay before copulation. This series is magnificent, intimate moments of Whales very rarely viewed and witnessed during a life time but photographed by Lou Bernstein.
Narcissus Whales
Shark Relationships
Relation of White Beluga Whales to Radin Sculpture
Relation of Rembrandt’s Painting to Photographs
(Luminous Hidden)
Beluga White Whales, (Newfie and Kathie)
The Basketball Game
Beluga White Whales, (Newfie and Kathie)
The Courtship of Beluga White Whales
Newfie and Kathie
Sea Creatures
Diverse species that inhabit the ocean’s depth, their interaction and co-existence in the deep.
The Nautilus
The extraterrestrial sea creature of the ocean.
Sea Horses
Foraging for food, and co-existing in the depths of the ocean
Yellow Head Jaw Fish
Moray Eels
Abstracts of Anemones and Starfish
Baby Whales
Training of Whales
Keepers of the Undersea Society
Lou Bernstein’s Black & White negative file contains over 30,000 unseen and unknown other treasures, yet to be discovered.
Lou Bernstein recognized for his Black & White Photography for over half a century, also photographed in Color.
His 35 m/m transparency file contains over 600 images, also is intact and included diverse subject matter comparable to the theme’s and images listed on the Compendium of the Black and White.
Lou Bernstein (1911 - 2005)