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)

Outbox: The Critical Grateful Dead T-Shirt

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by Michael J. McGandy

The difference a t-shirt makes: That is a lesson about regional publishing that I learned in the course of editing our new book, from Peter Conners, about the Grateful Dead’s 1977 concert at Barton Hall on the Cornell campus. When the authors, artists, editors, and archivists who play key roles in developing a book live in close proximity, chance meetings that can change a book are more likely to occur. And, as I learned last summer, if you are at the right place at the right time, you would do well to be wearing the right item of clothing.

But let me provide some background.

In June 2016 I was consulting with Peter on the book that would be titled Cornell ’77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall. After another round of editing from me and Dean Smith, Director of Cornell University Press (and a Deadhead), Peter was back at the work of revision. In that editorial lull, I was tasked with hunting down visual art. The contract called for twenty or more images, and both Peter and I wanted the book to have lots of photos and ephemera to help readers appreciate the spirit of spring 1977. Unfortunately, photos of the band related to their May 8 show at Cornell proved hard to find. Continue reading “Outbox: The Critical Grateful Dead T-Shirt”

Outbox: The Critical Grateful Dead T-Shirt