Erie Basin: The Photography of Jenny Young Chandler, 1890-1915
Newly married and recently widowed in 1890, Jennie Chandler Young began working as a photojournalist to support herself and her two-month old son. Using the moniker "Brooklyn Girl," she worked until 1915 for the New York Herald as a gifted photojournalist and feature writer. She also wrote and illustrated articles for women’s magazines as Jenny Young Chandler.
She died young, at the age of 56. The buyer of her home donated her collection of over 800 glass plate negatives to the collection of The Henry Ford Museum. There they sat for decades, until 200+ images were digitized in late 2014. Jenny Young Chandler (1865–1922)
PortSide is thrilled to have discovered her recently digitized work in Detroit in the collection of The Henry Ford Museum.
Jenny was born in 1865 as Jennie Randolph Young. Her family moved to Brooklyn six years later, when her father became the city editor for the New York Sun. She married William Goodnow Chandler in 1888, but less than two years later she was widowed. To support herself and her child, she turned her photography hobby into a career.
Her photographs of Erie Basin contain a wealth of information about how buildings were on stilts to deal with flooding, about the diverse maritime activities in the area, about how large and small scale and industrial and recreational maritime existed cheek by jowl.
She created an extensive collection of evocative images of Brooklyn’s waterfront. The photographic quality of her work is striking; her photos have a naturalism and intimacy that suggests small-format camera work that would characterize the 20th century.
The content of her work is revelatory for historians and waterfront planners like PortSide. Her photos show a bustling waterfront, filled with a variety of small scale commercial and recreational uses. The net effect of so many piers, charming clapboard buildings on piers and stilts, small boats, fishmermen, shipyards, children crabbing, and old men sitting about has the feel of coastal New England, showing that NYC was once more like New England in its use and embrace of the waterways.