by Larry Racioppo
May 5, 2017

Photographer Larry Racioppo, whose work is on display in our current exhibition on Prospect Park for the park's 150th anniversary, shares some memories and photos of the park in this guest post. Racioppo is also working on our Third Avenue blog series with blogger One More Folded Sunset.

Prospect Park was a part of my life long before I became a photographer. Glued to the black construction paper pages of Racioppo and Tenga family albums are photos of my parents and their friends posing ‘dressed up’ in the park or just outside it, along its stone walls.

My mother and her friends, c. 1947
My mother and her friends, c. 1947

 

There are photos here of me and my cousins on the swings and seesaws at the 9th Street playground, on white blankets in the meadow.

My mother and me in the playground circa 1950 by Larry Racioppo
My mother and me in the playground, c. 1950

 

As a boy, I played football and softball here, rode the Swan boats and went sleigh riding in the winter.

In 1965 I left South Brooklyn for college and then VISTA. I returned in 1970 and eventually moved to 15th Street and 6th Avenue, at the end of Park Slope. I made most of these photographs in the 1970’s while I lived in the South Slope, had very little money and was learning how to photograph.

On one of my first return visits to the Park, I walked past the sandbox near Prospect Park West, between 15th Street and the Bandshell. I suddenly  had the strangest déjà vu feeling and then rememebered that I had often played here.

Kids in the sandbox, 1978 by Larry Racioppo
Kids in the sandbox, 1978

 

Entering the Park across the street from the Sanders theater (now the Pavilion), I frequently walked to the lake near the tennis courts along an unnamed path between West Drive and Prospect Park Southwest. It was quiet and secluded, featuring a set of massive ‘ancient’ stairs.

Old stairs, 1972 by Larry Racioppo
Old stairs, 1972
Two girls on the stairs, 1972 by Larry Racioppo
Two girls on the stairs, 1972
Couple relaxing, 1973 by Larry Racioppo
Couple relaxing, 1973
Couple walking, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
Couple walking, 1974
Bridal portrait by the Lake, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
Bridal portrait by the Lake, 1974
Bridal party by the Lake, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
Bridal party by the Lake, 1974


Other times I walked closer to Prospect Park West, passing the decaying bandshell, on my way through the meadow to Grand Army Plaza.

The Bandshell, 1976 by Larry Racioppo
The Bandshell, 1976


I liked places officially recognized as beautiful, like the Boathouse, but I was drawn more strongly to old stairways and trees carved with couples’ names.

The Boathouse, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
The Boathouse, 1974
Stairs with Leaves, 1973 by Larry Racioppo
Stairs with Leaves, 1973
Tree with Names, 1973 by Larry Racioppo
Tree with Names, 1973


Over the years, I walked alone, or with dates, friends, and other photographers. Sometimes keeping to myself, other times engaging the great variety of people I met, from kite flyers to skateboarders, from picnickers to sleigh riders.

Kite Flyer in the Meadow, 1975 by Larry Racioppo
Kite Flyer in the Meadow, 1975
Kite Flyer in the Meadow, 1975 by Larry Racioppo
Kite Flyer in the Meadow, 1975
Skateboarder, 1978 by Larry Racioppo
Skateboarder, 1978
Picnicking Family, 1978 by Larry Racioppo
Picnicking Family, 1978
Sleigh Riders, 1979 by Larry Racioppo
Sleigh Riders, 1979

 

I enjoyed the Park as day turned to night, and especially on my favorite holiday -  Halloween.

Stairs at Dusk, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
Stairs at Dusk, 1974
Path at Dusk, 1974 by Larry Racioppo
Path at Dusk, 1974
Queen of Hearts, Halloween, 1994 by Larry Racioppo
Queen of Hearts, Halloween, 1994
Halloween Panorama, 1992 by Larry Racioppo
Halloween Panorama, 1992

 

All photos (c) Larry Racioppo. You can see more of Racioppo's Brooklyn-themed work on his website, larryracioppo.com.

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