Brooklyn Gang

Bruce Davidson American

Not on view

In spring 1959 Bruce Davidson sought out a Brooklyn gang called the Jokers after reading an article about them in the New York Times and spent the next year photographing their daily lives. At a time when films such as Rebel Without a Cause (1955) celebrated teenage resistance to conformity and popular literature agonized over juvenile delinquency, Davidson's photographs personalized the issues. His work revealed the notorious South Brooklyn gang as a tight-knit band of misfits whose vulnerability was as powerful as the wall of toughness that surrounded it. Theirs was a world where appearance was the paramount defense against the world: greased hair, rolled-up T-shirts, sunglasses, Coke, cigarettes, and tattoos announced the teenagers' rejection of the gray-flannel, organization-man lifestyle.
In this image, Davidson joins the group at one of their haunts. His camera notes the hipsters' cultural code and echoes its posture of resistance; the central subject-the gang leader-is "too close" to the camera, out-of-focus and cropped by the edges of the frame. While Popular Photography might deem this "poor technique," here it is the perfect match for the ragged, haphazard lifestyle of the "rebels."

Brooklyn Gang, Bruce Davidson (American, born 1933), Gelatin silver print

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