Leo Goldstein was born in 1901 in Kishinev in the Bessarabian region of Czarist Russia. Fleeing the pogroms, his family settled in New York City in 1906. The fourth child in a family of 13 children, Leo was diagnosed with tuberculosis at a young age and was forced to drop out of school before he finished high school.
Leo joined the Photo League in the late 1940s, studying photography there and working with Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott, among others. Goldstein participated in the exhibit This Is the Photo League (1948-1949). His photographs have appeared in a number of exhibits of Photo League work in the 1980s and was represented in the 2011-12 exhibit at the Jewish Museum entitled “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951.” His work is also included in the book, This Was the Photo League, published in 2000 and is represented in the photography collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Jewish Museum in New York City.
Like most League photographers, Leo took an interest in social documentary work. He spent three years (1949-1952) photographing street scenes and children playing as well as making portraits of individuals in New York’s El Barrio and Harlem communities with his Rolleiflex camera. Taking his cue from League member Lewis Hine, he also did a series of images of construction sites in New York City.
In the mid-1960s he began to photograph the stone carvings, ironwork and other decorative elements on brownstones on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where he lived. He soon began to photograph some of the distinctive architecture of the buildings themselves. As a sculptor himself, he had a deep appreciation of the carvings done by the stonemasons around the turn of the 20th century. He was also motivated by a concern that new construction and changes in the neighborhood at that time might lead to the destruction of these architectural gems. During this time, he traveled to rural Guatemala and Mexico where he photographed the land and its people.
Leo Goldstein died in 1972 after a long illness. Since his death, Goldstein’s work has largely been untouched and unseen. The Leo Goldstein Archive is planning to make the work available so that his hauntingly beautiful images and quiet, dignified insights into the lives of ordinary people can be viewed and appreciated. All the prints in the collection were made by the artist himself. For further information contact Naomi Goldstein, 917-596-3157; email, firstname.lastname@example.org