Blog posts by Larry Racioppo

My Parents’ Wedding Photo

Larry Racioppo

We never had much artwork in our home. The visual centerpiece of our living room was a symmetrical arrangement of three framed photographs: my parents’ hand oiled color wedding portrait in the center, flanked by the black and white high school graduation photos of me and my younger brother Robert. My parents, Carmella and Anthony Racioppo, displayed this same wedding portrait in each of their three Brooklyn apartments. I grew up seeing it every day. As I learned about photography, I realized what a good photograph it was: a professionally lighted studio portrait taken with a Century view…

My Mother's Sisters

Larry Racioppo

After singer-songwriter John Prine died on April 7, 2020 from coronavirus complications, local radio stations and media outlets created playlists of his “essential songs”. Listening to WFUV-FM, I heard When I Get to Heaven for the first time. The song, from Tree of Forgiveness, his 18th and last studio album in 2018, begins humorously, but then turns serious. Some of Prine’s lyrics really struck home for me: “I wanna see all my mama’s sisters because that’s where all the love starts. I miss ‘em all like crazy, bless their little hearts.” My mother had three sisters and four brothers who…

Photographs and Reflection in the Time of Quarantine

Larry Racioppo

I’m restless. I’m 72 years old and have been “sheltering at home” since March 7th. I’m not sure which I miss more – seeing my grandchildren or exploring the outskirts of New York City. I’ve spent many quiet hours photographing its waterfront and abandoned interiors. Almost every day since the 7th, I’ve scanned panoramic and large format negatives or made pigmented inkjet prints, and I expect to continue this routine in the weeks and months ahead. I’m lucky to have the means and equipment to do so, but man do I miss being out photographing. I’m trying to internalize the advice of my friend…

A Child’s Christmas in South Brooklyn (with apologies to Dylan Thomas)

Larry Racioppo

When I was a boy growing up in South Brooklyn, no one was concerned about keeping Christ in Christmas. That was a given. Even my uncles who never set foot in church went to the standing room only midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Midnight Mass, St. Michael the Archangel on 4th Avenue. 1974
Only Easter Sunday rivaled Christmas in importance. Both were Holy Days of Obligation, which required attendance at mass, and each was good for a week off from Catholic school. But for me, and my 30 first cousins, it was no contest. The Easter Bunny was cool, and…

A Personal History of the Mermaid Parade

Larry Racioppo

According to Wikipedia, Coney Island’s first Mermaid Parade took place in 1983, and it is now the largest art parade in the United States, attracting over 3,000 participants and hundreds of thousands of spectators. Hours before the Parade’s start, the audience begins lining up behind police barricades along Surf Avenue. Spectators and costumed participants ride the subway to the recently renovated Stillwell Avenue stop.

Stillwell Avenue subway station, 2015
Mermaid on the subway, 2015
Coney Island USA, founded by Dick…

Last Suppers and Good Fridays

Larry Racioppo

Our guest blogger Larry Racioppo is a lifelong Brooklynite and photographer who has documented Brooklyn and New York City for over 40 years. The Brooklyn Collection holds a collection of Racioppo's work and recently hosted a retrospective exhibition devoted to his career in conjunction with the release of his book Brooklyn Before. Racioppo was raised in a Catholic Italian-American family and has been documenting Good Friday ceremonies since 1974. Here, he shares some of that work and muses on Catholic iconography and community in general. We did not have art in our home. But we did have an…

First Communion Pictures

Larry Racioppo

I’ve been photographing First Communions, one of the three Catholic Initiation Sacraments, since 1971. One of my first ‘serious’ photographs depicts my Aunt Millie and her son John standing in the rain outside our parish church. John has just made his First Communion and is proudly holding his little prayer book wide open for me. Over the years I often returned to photograph at this church St. Michael the Archangel in Sunset Park (where I had made my First Communion), and to St. John the Evangelist in South Brooklyn where I lived in the 1970’s and 80’s.…

Valentine's Day/Ash Wednesday: Musings & Photos

Larry Racioppo

Photographer Larry Racioppo is back with another guest post for Brooklynology, this one musing on this year's rare congruence of Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. Today is the first time since 1945 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. This rare occurrence has made me think about the significance of each day and what they symbolize: Ash Wednesday – death, Valentine’s Day – romantic love. What I learned about Ash Wednesday in Catholic grammar school is summed up here: “…we use ashes made form the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous…

The Other Side of the Park

Larry Racioppo

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.…