Inside Street Photography

The official newsletter of Street Photography Magazine

  Larry Racioppo  |  Friday, 24 Nov 2023  |  Reading time:  5 mins  | Read online

When One Photograph Leads to Another

Welcome to another edition of "Inside Street Photography." This time, we're sharing a piece from one of our favorite New York street photographers and new monthly columnist Larry Racioppo. We'll let Larry introduce himself for those of you who aren't familiar with his work just yet:

"When I returned to South Brooklyn in 1970 after two years in California as a VISTA Volunteer, I was 22 years old with no plans and a $30 camera I barely knew how to use. I took a course at the School of Visual Arts, a job with the telephone company and began to photograph my family and friends.   

"Things worked out better than I could have expected. I’ve been making photographs for over 50 years, and have some things I’d like to share."

We know you'll enjoy this article as much as we did, and we look forward to sharing monthly columns from Larry with you as well.

It’s funny how one photograph can lead to another.

In August, 1974 my friend John Rossi invited me to join him at a photography “happening” at Eastern Correctional Prison in Napanoch, New York. The Floating Foundation of Photography, founded by Maggie Sherwood in 1970, had created a statewide photography program for prison inmates.

From time to time, she invited photographers to share their work with the program’s regular instructors and participating inmates. Our visit to Eastern was unstructured. I walked around, looking at inmates’ photographs displayed on tables and stands placed throughout the prison’s large courtyard. I showed and spoke about a few of my photographs, but primarily discussed the inmates’ photos, which were often very good. This was not happenstance.

“The photographer has various levels of success which develop from his first photogram to the Polaroid, through the $2.00 plastic camera (Diana F); an involvement in which he can plan the subject, take the image, and develop and print the result. Our attitude applauds each successive level and reinforces along the way.” wrote the Floating Foundation’s Educational Director Steven C. Schoen in the catalog for a 1977 traveling exhibition of prisoners work Photography From Within.

Maggie Sherwood at Eastern

While at Eastern, I was surprised at how unsupervised our visit actually was. I wandered around and made some photographs “for myself”.

Showers and walkway
“Tomorrow cancelled” graffito

At some point I noticed John and an inmate looking at photographs together, and I photographed them.

John and a program participant

Then I photographed the inmate next to his drying white shirt.

Young Eastern photographer

Flash forward to 1976:

I am photographing my brother Robert’s band THE SHIRTS at my small studio on 15th Street in Brooklyn.

During a break, I noticed that I had hung a white shirt on the wall to dry. Out of nowhere, I remembered the Eastern inmate and his shirt, and asked one of the band members to pose next to my shirt.

Annie next to my shirt

The viewfinder image looked OK, but nothing special. I then hung a guitar on the same nail as my shirt and placed the shirt’s sleeves on the guitar as if the shirt were playing.

My shirt “holding” a guitar

This image just popped – the band made it their logo and reproduced it on t-shirts and posters.

Larry and SHIRTS @ CBGB posters, Union Square, 1976 - Photo credit: John Rossi  

When their first album was released in 1978, my photo was the cover art.

Larry Racioppo
Larry Racioppo is a NYC photographer whose work focuses on the urban landscape. He photographs with both large format and panoramic cameras.

More by Larry Racioppo

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