The Lower East Side Biography Project
The Lower East Side Biography Project is a community based media program training individuals in all aspects of dv video production. Participants attend workshops and then apply their new skills by working
within small production teams to shoot, edit and direct their own biography
segment on one of the long-term residents of the Lower East Side. This project attempts to
stem the cultural amnesia in the rapidly changing Lower East Side by creating
a dialogue between the project's biography subjects and newcomers to the city
and the neighborhood. The Project hopes to give neophyte videographers the
opportunity to work with quality documentary material as well as the
satisfaction of preserving precious oral histories for future generations. In
addition to creating biographies, the LES Bio Project routinely documents live
The Lower East Side, the Hispanic community of Losaida and Chinatown, is one
the New York City's most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. The archive that
is being created by the LES Bio Project is not just a compilation of
biographies and live events, but represents an investigation into the essence
of a community and the attempt to preserve one of America's most historically,
politically and culturally significant neighborhoods.
Since its inception in 1999, the LES Bio Project has trained 28 individuals, completed 22 programs, shot 18 biographical
interviews and dozens of live events. In 2000, the LES Bio Project helped to
form a video oral history collective, Oral New York. This collective, whose
members include the cultural historian Steven Watson, art historian Alan Moore, and Martha
Wilson, founder of Franklin Furnace, aims to keep alive the history of the
bohemianism, avant-garde arts, and political rebellion in New York City.
Through its web site it hopes to become the "Grand Central" of oral
histories, a clearing-house for researchers, and a bridge between historians
and media makers. In 2001, the Project became part of a downtown arts, music
and video collective, Fang Productions, whose mission is to facilitate the
distribution of work of downtown artists.
The Lower East Side Biography Project was founded by Penny Arcade and Steve
Zehentner; its members include: Dean Lance, Geoff Bruen, Anna Wierzbicka,
Patti Van Dyke, Jeffrey Galusha, Aubrey Anable, Virginia Williams, Justin O.
Silverman, Amy P. Ferrara, Nadia Macnider, Jodi Wetzel, Samantha Hadfield,
Chris Rael, Trinity Canty, Hugh Gran, Masatsugu Shimura, Jill Cowburn, Heiko
Kalmbach, Eric Wallach, Sibylle Jud, James Williamson, Josh Diamond, and Keith
Funding for The Lower East Side Biography Project provided by Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Fiscal sponsorship provided by ABC No Rio.