Life on the Lower East Side

La Vida en Loisaida (Life on the Lower East Side)

13 Aug 2020 Manhattan
Women with blue hair and blue plants
Photo by Destiny Mata

LOCATION: Jobs Plus (24 Avenue D and BGR (888 E 6th Street) – Lower East Side



Destiny Mata is a documentary photographer dedicated to capturing the Lower East Side. In response to the rapid gentrification of the community, she began to use portraiture as a way to photograph her friends and neighbors, many of whom are residents of the Lillian Wald Houses where she grew up.

For Mata, NYCHA buildings like Lillian Wald are the heart and soul of New York City. The backdrops of her portraits often prominently feature the iconic brick exterior of the Lower East Side public housing developments.

Taken between 2009 and 2020, La Vida en Loisaida (Life on the Lower East Side) amplifies the pride of longtime LES residents, in the wake of the neighborhood’s rapid and difficult changes.

Featuring: Destiny Mata

Curated by: Ali Rosa-Salas


Destiny Mata is a New York native documentary photographer. She is the former Director of Photography programs at the Lower Eastside Girls Club. Her work has been published and featured in Teen Vogue, VICE’s Noisey, Vibe Magazine, The Source Magazine, and Frank151.

Destiny attended La Guardia Community College and San Antonio College, with a focus in Photojournalism. She exhibited her photography in a group exhibition titled Young Latino Artists 21: [email protected] at the Mexic-Arte Museum in 2016. In 2014, she exhibited photographs taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the exhibition, Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy at the Museum of the City of New York.


Abrons Arts Center is the OBIE award-winning home for contemporary interdisciplinary arts in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. A core program of the Henry Street Settlement, Abrons believes that access to the arts is essential to a free and healthy society. Through performances, presentations, exhibitions, education programs and residencies, Abrons mobilizes communities with the transformative power of art.

The arts have always been an integral part of Henry Street’s mission. Their vitality was cemented in 1915, with the opening of The Neighborhood Playhouse and again in 1975, with the completion and dedication of Abrons Arts Center, one of the first arts facilities in the nation designed for a predominantly low-income population. Today, Abrons is an essential cultural resource, providing diverse audiences with artistically bold work while offering artists opportunities to dynamically grow.

Each year, Abrons premieres over twenty performances, six gallery exhibitions, hosts multiple residencies for performing and studio artists, and offers 100 different classes in dance, music, theater, and visual art. Abrons also provides New York City public schools with teaching artists, introducing more than 3,000 students to the arts. Visit Abrons Arts Center for more information.


This photographer makes photos of life on the Lower East Side, where she grew up. Why do you think it’s important to document your friends, family and community?

How do her photos of the Lower East Side differ from other photos you have seen of the neighborhood?

What emotions do you see in the people in the photos?