FotoFriday: Barbara Mensch’s Photographs of Our Lost Maritime Heritage

 "Vinny, an Unloader" (1982).  South Street Seaport Museum
"Vinny, an Unloader" (1982). South Street Seaport Museum 2008.005.0018. Copyright Barbara G. Mensch.

Barbara G. Mensch is a contemporary photographer who through the 1970’s and early 1980’s captured the rapidly disappearing world of Lower Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market. Thomas Mellins, special projects curator for the Museum of The City of New York, put together an exhibition titled The Photographs of Barbara Mensch at the South Street Seaport Museum. The artist’s work can also be viewed in her book, South Street.

From the South Street Seaport Museum website:

For more than a century, a tightly knit community of workingmen, many of them immigrants or children of immigrants, thrived in their nocturnal jobs as fishmongers under the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Resistant to government regulations and corporate encroachment these men worked in a closed, internally-policed world that was deeply hostile to outsiders.

Many of the images were taken in 1979-1983, a time of profound change in the political and economic landscape of Lower Manhattan. The waterfront below the Brooklyn Bridge was targeted for economic revival, spurred by the demolition of important locales in the fish market, existing piers, working storefronts, saloons and hotels to make room for new commercial spaces, including a shopping mall.

Since there is nothing like experiencing art in person, make sure you get to the South Street Seaport Museum if you can.

Please don’t miss the great interview with the photographer by Columbia University Press.

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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