MOMMIE is a remarkable photographic portrait of three generations of women in the family of photographer Arlene Gottfried and an intimate story of the inevitable passage of time and aging. Pictured within, we are introduced to Gottfried’s 100 year old immigrant grandmother, fragile mother, and reluctant sister over the breathtaking course of 35 years.
An artist turning their eye on their own immediate family is a well explored theme, but Gottfried has achieved the sublime with a multi-decade long commitment to document the intimate lives of her nearest kin. Gottfried succeeds in creating a complete twentieth century portrait of four lives inextricably interwoven through relation, sickness, need, love, and the absence of her father—who passed away while Arlene was still young.
Living as many mid-century Jewish New York families did, the Gottfrieds were not wealthy and lacked any trappings of luxury. Close examination of their world on Avenue A in Manhattan’s Lower East Side reveals a dimly lit small apartment, cartons of budget saltines and groceries, chipped paint, damaged floor tiles, guarded loose change, and well worn clothes – details natural to the lives of many families of immigrants in New York.
Mommie is testament to the passage of time, changes in the generations, losing loved ones and a familial experience at once both similar and unique to all.