Taken between the years of 1974-1978 by photographer Larry Racioppo, these terrific vintage photos of kids trick or treating in South Park Slope, Brooklyn will bring back nostalgic memories of Halloween to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
Vintage Halloween Photos by Larry Racioppo
These black and white images capture the days of plastic vacuum-formed masks and highly flammable costumes. Of wax lips and Abba Zabba bars.
Larry Racioppo is a product of his 1950’s Park Slope working class upbringing. The son of a longshoreman, he was raised as a Roman Catholic and supported himself by such varied jobs as a cab driver, bartender and construction worker. After a spell in California in the late 60’s, Racioppo returned to live in Park Slope, and with no formal training, decided to become a photographer. He worked under the auspices of CETA, a federal jobs program, which was created in the 70’s as an heir to the WPA program.
Some of his 70’s Halloween photographs were taken during his time with CETA. Eventually Racioppo found work with the City as a photographer for the Department of Housing Preservation & Development which offered him the opportunity to further develop his art while earning an income.
“In 1970, I decided to head back to New York City, so I bought a car for $120, a Nikon Range Finder camera for $35, and zigzagged across the country, taking the long route from Idaho to Mexico, snapping pictures along the way,” he says. “I spent every dollar I had on that trip. By the time I got back to the Verrazano Bridge, I had $8 left to my name, but I knew I wanted to be a photographer.” – Larry Racioppo
Racioppo kept on taking pictures, particularly of the everyday folk in his new Sunset Park community, where he rented a little storefront and set up a black-and-white darkroom. Along the way, he finished his degree in communications at Fordham, took a basic photography course at the School of Visual Arts and, in 1975, got a Master’s in TV and Radio Production from Brooklyn College, all the while earning his keep driving a cab and waiting tables at a fancy Upper East Side joint, far from the egg-on-a-roll longshoreman he was snapping in the off-hours. Eventually, Racioppo became an assistant to commercial photographer Phil Marco, which gave him a crash course in the refined professional world of taking pictures, particularly still life. But it never called to him like the streets.
It wasn’t easy making a living as a photographer at that time. “I never gave up, but it got harder and harder to do the things I wanted to do, to take straightforward pictures of regular New Yorkers and their neighborhoods in the same way as my hero Walker Evans.” – Larry Racioppo
In 1980, Racioppo had his first book published, Halloween, featuring the images in this post.
Long out of print, a library bound version is available here for purchase on Amazon.
Images in this post are from the NY Public Library Digital Collection, courtesy of The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection and from the photographer,Larry Racioppo.