BROOKLYN BEFORE (cellphones)

There was a time when people didn’t have cellphones. And it wasn’t that long ago. Children played tag outside, lovers kissed in the park, elders sat around the table sharing stories or gathered around the TV. People looked up at the sky. And they weren’t taking pictures with their phones. How did this shape our environment, our relationships, and our everyday lives?

I believe that back then we were more present, more intimate, and more engaged. Nature was a place to get lost in, and the city was a playground waiting to be explored. When people gathered for an important event, they actually looked. The moments didn’t fly by unnoticed.

In a time when fewer people had cameras, every moment was singular, and most photos more candid, not posed for Instagram. The people who captured those moments often had incredible stories of their own. Here are two of them:

Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78

In a New York Times article posted today, Jim Dwyer presents a slideshow of long-forgotten pictures made in parks across New York City’s five boroughs late in the summer of 1978. Surprisingly enough, the pictures were a hidden treasure, and had been sitting around in two cardboard boxes for forty years. Unseen.

The images are astonishing: unleashed laughter, a group of little boys flexing their muscles, elderly people dancing in floppy hats, and young ones swimming in hardly anything. No one holds a smartphone.

Brooklyn Before: Photographs, 1971-1983

What did Brooklyn look like before rising to international fame? Photographer Larry Racioppo answers this questions in his upcoming book Brooklyn Before, a collection of 128 images that transport us to the place that was home to working-class community of Irish American, Italian American, and Puerto Rican families. And it is an intimate and rough insight, the kind that only an insider could provide.

The photographs cover a wide range of everyday scenes including balconies connected by clothes lines, children peering through a wire fence, a drum circle on the sidewalk, and a giant wheel, among others. They tell the story of a vibrant borough of neighborhoods, its communities, its connections and traditions. They talk.

So, here’s is an invitation to travel in time and immerse yourself in these stories. It’s an invitation, if anything, to put down your phone for a moment and see. To talk. To become an active observer and appreciate how the human connection is irreplaceable and binding. And hopefully, to learn something from it.

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Recommended watch: “How is your phone changing you?”

 

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She wrote this blog post on a Friday morning and was eager to disconnect. In case you haven’t noticed.

BROOKLYN BEFORE (cellphones)