Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Photographs of Teenage Gangs of New York City in 1959

In the summer of 1959, 25 year old photographer Bruce Davidson read about the teenage gangs of New York City. Connecting with a social worker to make initial contact with a gang, Davidson became a daily observer and photographer of this alienated youth culture. At the time there were an estimated thousand gang members in New York City.
"I met a group of teenagers in Brooklyn who called themselves the Jokers. At the time there were an estimated thousand gang members in New York City," he wrote. "I was twenty-five and they were about sixteen. I could easily have been taken for one of them."
For several months Davidson followed the Jokers on their endless wanderings around their Brooklyn turf and beyond. He captured them hanging out in Prospect Park, where outdoor dances were held on weekend summer nights, and lounging on the beach at Coney Island. He snapped the young men as they killed time in a neighbourhood diner called Helen's Candy Store. In his photographs, the Jokers look both tough and innocent, uncertain adolescent kids caught in that hinterland between childhood and – this being New York – premature adulthood. Davidson's black-and-white images are cool and evocative, imbued with a sense of time and place that is palpable.

© Bruce Davidson. USA. New York City. 1959. Brooklyn Gang. Magnum Photos, via The Guardian

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