Through Her Lens: Documenting Crypto-Jews, Brooklyn Life, and More

When Gloria Golden was growing up in Brooklyn, New York – first in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and later in Borough Park and Gravesend — her father carried a camera everywhere he went. But his daughter did not follow his example. 

Unlike her dad, Golden did not begin to take photographs until 1994, when she took a course at Queensborough Community College during a sabbatical from her job as an elementary school teacher. 

Since then, Golden has taken thousands of shots and has published five books of photos and text: Remnants of Crypto-Jews Among Hispanic Americans (2005); Desaturated Soul (2009); Brooklyn Revisited (2012); Photography: An Intimate Approach (2016); and Metallic Metropolis (2019). 

Now living on Long Island, the award-winning photographer discussed her career with Lilith’s Eleanor J. Bader in early November.


Eleanor J. Bader: Let’s start by talking about your early years as a public-school teacher, before you found a foothold in photography. Did you like teaching?

Gloria Golden: Let’s go back even earlier. I was born in the 1940s and attended New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn. When I began studying there, I was in the commercial education program, training to be an office worker, because I did not think my parents could afford to send me to college. When I explained this to one of my teachers, she was shocked and called my parents in to discuss my future. After this conversation, I was put on the academic track.  When I graduated, I enrolled at what was then called the Uptown City campus of City College. I’d originally assumed I’d teach business classes since that was what I’d focused on during high school, however, I ended up taking classes in elementary education at Uptown City to prepare me to teach elementary school. Martin Luther King spoke at my college graduation. Can you believe it?