The Five Points House of Industry, 1931

We drove upstate last week for my great aunt Rosa’s memorial service. That afternoon the whole family sat under an enormous tree in Rosa’s yard, eating and laughing and doing our best to decipher the suddenly indecipherable (and suddenly gripping) piles of photos that people pulled out of the corners of her house.

I got drawn in by these from the Five Points House of Industry, an early 20th century “Fresh Air Fund” of sorts that my great grandmother, Rosa’s mom, worked for. They brought orphans and street children and budding criminals-to-be from NYC’s notorious Five Points up to a camp in the Catskills, in hopes of instilling industriousness (one presumes) and hopefully other other healthy things along the way too.

They’re photos of strangers, more remote than even the most mysterious of the family photos were, but they’re super narrative in an interesting way, and I also just found them beautiful to look at. The one of the blurry overalls-guy in front of the cabin is especially great. We made some use of these shots in the artwork for The Stolen Souvenir. (Cos we stole ’em.)