The New York Public Library just digitized an archive of prints from the 1970s that indulges that exact compulsion. The 600 or so photos are all from a woman named Dinanda H. Nooney, who grew interested in the homes and lives of Brooklynites while volunteering for George McGovern’s presidential campaign. Her photographs cover wide swaths of the borough: Flatbush, Fort Greene, Coney Island, Park Slope, and more.
The Brooklyn of back then has transformed at a careening pace, to include landmarks like Barclay’s Center and glamorous townhouses owned by Beastie Boy Mike D. By now, Brooklyn is a brand–even local outposts like Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn Bowl have self-exported to Europe. Nooney’s photographs are postcards from the era that preceded all of that.
Once inside the homes in Nooney’s photos, there’s actually an aesthetic that feels contemporary: some interiors feature the same trademark charming touches found on today’s design blogs: bikes suspended on the wall, potted plants, clusters of framed photos. Plenty are inhabited by families. But there are also painters in their home studios (some painters painting on their own walls), audiophiles surrounded by vinyl, and barren lofts with concrete floors–images that are a harbinger of the small-batch, craft design ethos that put the borough on the map.