In Tar Beach, photographer and Little Italy resident Susan Meiselas (born 1948) brings together found pictures that were made, kept and gathered by various families who handed them down from 1940 to the early 1970s. Reflections from the community offer perspectives of multiple generations, as local author Angel Marinaccio says: “If you had an accomplishment―communion, confirmation, wedding, graduation or birthday, you‘d dress up in your best outfit and go to the rooftop to take pictures and celebrate with your family.”
The introduction to Tar Beach is written by renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who grew up on the streets portrayed in this collection. He writes: “The roof was our escape hatch and it was our sanctuary. The endless crowds, the filth and the grime, the constant noise, the chaos, the claustrophobia, the non-stop motion of everything … you would walk up that flight of stairs, open the door, and you were above it all. You could breathe. You could dream. You could be.”
Meiselas, along with two of her neighbors, Angel Marinaccio and Virginia Bynum, collected and curated these vernacular photographs and memories to convey the feeling of this special place and time in the daily lives of Italian immigrants as they made their way to becoming part of American culture.