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photographs by Martha Cooper
introduction by Carlos "MARE 139" Rodriguez

format 21 x 24 cm, 120 pages
ca. 100 duotone photographs

english original version

ISBN 978-3-937946-16-0
hardcover (incl. embossed printing) & dustcover / stitch binding

Price: 29,95 EUR

ISBN 978-3-937946-15-3
Price: 19,90 EUR

In the late 70’s New York City was in the throes of bankruptcy. The Lower Eastside was a wasteland of boarded up buildings and unfenced vacant lots. These were the days before kids became preoccupied with video games, cell phones and MP3 downloads. Needles contaminated with HIV had not yet appeared nor had a widespread fear of pedophiles. Kids roamed their neighborhoods unsupervised, giving their imaginations free rein.

Martha Cooper’s photos take us through the Alphabet City of the late 70’s as the area was about to undergo extensive urban renewal—a process that is still continuing today. At the time, the neighborhood had more than its share of drug dealers and petty criminals, and the landscape seemed ugly and forbidding. But to the children who grew up there, the abandoned buildings and rubble-strewn lots made perfect playgrounds, providing raw materials and open space for unsupervised play. A crumbling tenement housed a secret clubhouse, rooftops became private aviaries, and a pile of trash might be a source for treasure.

With a poignant memoir from Carlos "MARE 139" Rodriguez, a boy who remembers the excitement of growing up playing on the streets of New York City but who now wants something different for his son, Street Play shows the creative and indomitable spirit of city kids determined to make the best of their inhospitable environment. Today the neighborhood is transformed. Martha Cooper’s work attests to a transitional, post-tenement and pre-artist period on the Lower East Side when street culture held turf in Alphabet City.

"Coopers’ remarkable photos capture the spontaneous and improvisatory nature of children’s play. Most of all her photos illuminate the way the city itself, with its alluring fire hydrants, manhole covers, and rooftops, became a game board in an era when unsupervised play offered children a free school of the streets."
STEVE ZEITLIN, Director, City Lore


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