Remembering Photographer Rebecca Lepkoff


Rebecca Lepkoff was a modern dance student and 23-year-old recent City College graduate when she decided to earn a few extra bucks by dancing at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. She scraped together the money she earned and bought her first camera—a second-hand Voigtlander—and immediately took to the streets of her native city to document the lives of fellow New Yorkers, a lifelong project that resulted in one of the more intimate and personal photographic records of New York’s Lower East Side produced in the last century. Lepkoff died last weekend, a few days after her 98th birthday.

The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Lepkoff grew up in a tenement on Hester Street. Her father was a tailor and the family bounced around various Lower East Side addresses as they struggled to improve their circumstances. She got married in 1941, settling in a nearby tenement on Cherry Street, where she had three children and focused her lens on the world she inhabited, knew, and loved, documenting the ordinary denizens of the city.



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