Arlene Gottfried, born in Brooklyn, graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and worked as a photographer at an ad agency before freelancing for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The Independent in London.
Her first photographs are of life on the streets, picturing her friends, relatives, and neighbors of the ethnically diverse area of Brooklyn she lives in. The photographs from the 1970s and 80s document a part of New York City that no longer exists, a rough environment where she gravitates towards individuals with unique characteristics and large personalities. She goes to festivals, block parties, and all the parades – Gay Pride, St. Patrick's Day, Puerto Rican Day, and the early Halloween parade. She returns to the beaches of her childhood, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, photographs the Only nude bay in New York, Riis Beach's Bay One, and also clubs and disco that had a sense of wild and free self-expression in a world before the AIDS epidemic.
Gottfried has exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and in Tokyo, and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., among others. Her photographs can be found in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women's Documentary Photography. Gottfried is the author of Bacalaitos & Fireworks (powerHouse Books, 2011), Sometimes Overwhelming (powerHouse Books, 2008), Midnight (powerHouse Books, 2003) and The Eternal Light (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999). A lecturer and a teacher, Gottfried lives and works in New York City.