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.
“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
“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”
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.”
‘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
“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
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