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Through My Lens: NYC in the 1970’s Photographs by Brooklyn College Alumna Marcia Bricker Halperin

September 1, 2023 - November 10, 2023

Marcia Bricker Halperin is a lifelong Brooklynite who has been photographing the characters and landscapes of New York City for almost 50 years. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brooklyn College where she studied with Barney Cole, Walter Rosenblum, Lee Bontecou, Jimmy Ernst, and Lois Dodd, among others.

From 1978 to 1980, Halperin was a part of the CETA Artist’s Project documentation team, a program akin to the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s Great Depression. Her photography has been included in many group exhibitions, including the Brooklyn Museum and the International Center of Photography, and a recent solo exhibition at the Edward Hopper House Museum.

After spending 35 years in K-12 education teaching art and photography and using her creativity in special education she has begun a deep dive into her photography archives. Her first book, Kibbitz & Nosh: When We All Met at Dubrow’s Cafeteria (Cornell University Press), was published this year.

The exhibit runs September 1– November 10, 2023, in the Brooklyn College Library. There is also a gallery talk and reception to be held on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

About the exhibit

Public Markets: In the 1970s public markets in the five boroughs of New York City were surrounded by gritty, graffitied neighborhoods. Many of their shoppers were opting for modern supermarkets. These portraits are a tribute to the vendors who stayed with the markets through those lean years ensuring their continuance. Public markets are major institutions in cities worldwide bringing together all social classes and are more than a place to sell food. These civic spaces function as communities where relationships between merchants and steady customers are personal.

Hell’s Kitchen: From 1978-1980 as part of the federally funded CETA Artist’s Project, a program akin to the WPA, Halperin photographed in Hell’s Kitchen. The neighborhood, just west of Times Square, was undergoing development and gentrification. The tenant organizers of Housing Conservation Coordinators used the photographs to win cases against negligent landlords, to help homesteaders work with city agencies to renovate and gain ownership of their apartments and to advocate for families in need of better housing.

Around the city: Whether on a bicycle, by subway, or on foot I was able to roam the city with a light camera and fast film capturing vernacular images of city life. I drew on the experiences of a generation of photographers – the many Jewish members of the New York Photo League—who offered a new and humanistic urban vision. Like them, I was entranced by how the medium of photography could transform everyday sights into poignant moments.

Kibbitz & Nosh: When We All Met at Dubrow’s Cafeteria: The story of the rise and fall of cafeterias mirrors 20th Century American history—the rise of the office worker, women’s evolving roles, immigration, the growth of cities, the impact of the Depression, the labor movement, and American eating habits. One self-serve restaurant, Dubrow’s Cafeteria, was a legendary establishment that served a central role in the Garment District. Along with another Dubrow’s, located in Brooklyn, they provided a restaurant and social club or “third place” for a generation of New Yorkers.


September 1, 2023
November 10, 2023
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