Living Easy On The Streets Of New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s

Tria Giovan's photographs show the LSE in a mellow hue of pastels and camaraderie

In 1984 Tria Giovan moved to a tenement building on Clinton Street in New York City’s Lower East Side, a place the locals knew as the Spanglish ‘Loisaida’. There she took photographs of life, much of it lived on the streets. Her pictures show us the LES in a soft, pastel light of languid and mellow harmony.


NYC lower East Side 1980

Open Car Door on Eldridge Street, 1987

 “Loisaida, as it was known, was as gritty, authentic and humble as it was exotic, vibrant and colourful. The melding cultures and humanity I encountered inspired these photographs”
– Tria Giovan


NYC lower East Side 1980s

“The view from my window of 29 Clinton Street. My neighbours perch on their fire escape to watch a wrestling match taking place on the street below. The urban soundtrack was music – namely merengue and salsa – mixed with fighting, yelling and the noise of family gatherings on the neighbouring fire escapes. It was like an ongoing opera. I loved living there”


NYC lower East Side 1980s c

Pink Sandals on Clinton Street, 1986

Giovan left the neighborhood in 1990 without ever editing or producing the majority of the photographs. The negatives languished until the pandemic.  “Resurrecting this series for book form,” she says “I apply a contemporary perspective to the nearly 40-year-old photographs. It is a cultural and historical record of a diverse and robust neighbourhood and community that has been radically altered through waves of gentrification.”


Balloons on Delancey Street, 1986

‘The Lower East Side’s history, its cultural legacy, and the visual trove of 19th and 20th-century imagery of the area, as I knew it then, were navigational tools. And while the cultural and socioeconomic events of the time no doubt subconsciously influenced my practice, I simply went out and photographed, unencumbered by the “bigger picture” of what I was doing, responding instinctively to my environs, drawn in by fleeting moments, gestures, colour and light’

– Tria Giovan


Boy With Action Figures, 1984

“I call you Loisaida / Incredible / a perfect mix / a very decent people / of all races / who appreciate you / who adore you / don’t know how to explain / what happens / when absent from / your reckless streets / yes, they love / You, my beautiful Loisaida”

– Bimbo Rivas, Loisaida, 1974



Lunch on Norfolk Street, 1990

View From 29 Clinton Street, 1989

Diner Window, 1989

Corner of Clinton and Stanton Streets, 1989

Barreto’s on Stanton Street, 1987

NYC lower East Side 1980

Wrestling Match on Clinton Street, 1990

Via: Loisaida: New York Street Work 1984-1990 

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