Italian art publisher Damiani has released a new book by Chicago-born photographer Tria Giovan, who between the years of 1984 and 1990 lived and photographed in the Lower East Side neighbourhood of New York.
Titled Loisaida — a term derived from the Spanish pronunciation of ‘Lower East Side’ and coined by Puerto Rican poet Bimbo Rivas — the book is made up of 80 photographs from that period, which Giovan only revisited for the first time during the pandemic, more than 30 years after they were taken.
During her stay in the neighbourhood, she became fascinated by the area’s rich cultural diversity and creative spirit. Historically, the Lower East Side has been home to many families who originally relocated to New York from abroad in search of a better life. In particular, the area was, and still is, home to a large Puerto Rican community.
“The Lower East Side has a magical place in popular imagination partially because it was the root of the American experience for so many generations of immigrants over the past several centuries,” writes Sean Corcoran, senior curator at the Museum of the City of New York, in the book’s essay.
Inspired to document her findings, Giovan began photographing the people and places she came across, capturing the unique atmosphere of the Lower East Side and in the process creating a valuable cultural and historical record of the area.
Having now undergone waves of gentrification, like many other areas of the city, Giovan’s photographs offer an insight into a significant period in its history. Looking through the images, we are presented with a captivating mix of grittiness and warmth — a strong and diverse community foregrounded against the harshness of the city streets.
Writing in the book’s foreword, Giovan explains: “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.”
She goes on: “Universally, the images speak to the human condition. They reflect what is eternal and what is intrinsically New York City — vibrancy, diversity, coexistence, and eccentricity.”
Loisaida is published by Damiani; damianieditore.com