South Street is Barbara G. Mensch's evocative tribute to the lost world of Lower Manhattan's Fulton Fish Market. For more than a century, a colorful, tightly knit community of fishmongers, many of them recent immigrants and children of immigrants, thrived under the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Resistant to government regulations and corporate encroachment, these men lived in a closed, internally policed world that was deeply hostile to outsiders.
As a young photographer in the early 1980s, Mensch bonded with this particular group of "authentic New Yorkers," becoming a confidante for their life stories, which were often filled with hardship, mystery, and misadventures. These striking photographs capture the unique personality and fierce secrecy of their vibrant working-class culture. Combined with lively commentaryreminiscent of Studs Terkel's riveting oral historiesthe images offer a rare peek inside a society described by Philip Lopate as "a precious last vestige of historic Gotham."
Mensch's story ends with the closure of the docks and the opening of the Seaport mall, a symbolic victory of corporate interests over more than a century of mob rule. Her visual essay recounts the driving forces and the effects of this urban transformation on the entrenched community of fishmongers, creating an enduring historical document. Though the Fulton Fish Market no longer resides below the Brooklyn Bridge, the history and energy of this cherished New York City landmark are beautifully preserved in this book.
The photographs are haunting and intricate.
The photographs, gathered in South Street, are stunningintimate, dramatic, poignant.
Savoring the vivid faces in Ms. Mensch's photographs... and reading her picturesque profiles... you can almost still smell the fish.
A work of impressive scholarship combined with talented narration, South Street is enthusiastically recommended.
An intimate look at lower Manhattan of the 1980s and the men who worked its docks and warehouses.
So compelling that one has a hard time putting it down... Highly recommended.
Mensch has encapsulated a time and place so fully as to make us feel not as if we are looking at a photograph but rather happened on the scene as we turned a corner.
Stunning... Evocative... Thoughtful... A wonderful book for photography lovers and history aficionados alike.
Introduction: The Fulton Fish Market, by Phillip LopateA South Street StoryGlossaryReferences