dinsdag 13 januari 2015

Die Jokers - ein 'gang' Jugendlicher in New York Themenheft . Du, September 1960, Nummer 235.12 Bruce Davidson Photography in the 20th Century Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

DU-Heft; Davidson, Bruce:Die Jokers - ein 'gang' Jugendlicher in New York Themenheft . Du, September 1960, Nummer 235.12 (teils doppelseitige) Aufnahmen umfassende Photoserie über eine New Yorker Jugendgang von Bruce Davidson/Magnum. - Inhalt ausserdem: Erich Lessing/Magnum: Wotruba. Ein Bildbericht Peter Mieg: Louis Moilliet (mit zahlreichen, teils farbigen Abbildungen); Kurt Marti: Karl Barth; Frösche, Kröten, Unken . Aufnahmen und Text von Jakob Forster und Walter Goetz.

See also


Photography in the 20th Century

Author:Matti Boom, Hans Roosenboom

Publisher:nai010, Rijksmuseum


After the successful reopening of the Rijksmuseum in April of 2013, the museum’s Philips Wing will reopen in November with 'Modern Times', a major survey of twentieth-century photography compiled from the Rijksmuseum’s collection. This collection has grown spectacularly, particularly during the last decade, and now includes many masterpieces by world-famous photographers including André Kertész, Brassaï, Robert Capa, László Moholy-Nagy, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, William Klein, Cas Oorthuys, and Eva Besnyö.

With more than 350 photographs, the book 'Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century' forms an impressive overview of the developments that took place during the twentieth century in photography, which grew by leaps and bounds into the ubiquitous and influential medium that we know today.
In 1959, the 25-year-old photographer embedded himself with a gang of teenage New Yorkers to create a moving portrait of postwar inner-city youth culture

In 1959, there were about 1,000 gang members in New York City, mainly teenage males from ethnically-defined neighbourhoods in the outer boroughs. In the spring of that year, Bruce Davidson read a newspaper article about outbreaks of street fighting in Prospect Park and travelled across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan in search of a gang to photograph.
"I met a group of teenagers called the Jokers," he wrote in the afterword to his seminal book of insider reportage, Brooklyn Gang. "I was 25 and they were about 16. I could easily have been taken for one of them."
The previous year, Davidson had become a member of Magnum, having shown his work to his hero, the agency's co-founder, Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1958, he had similarly immersed himself in the world of a travelling circus for a series called The Dwarf, in which he photographed a performer with whom he formed a close friendship. "My way of working," he later said, "is to enter an unknown world, explore it over a period of time, and learn from it."
With the Jokers, the boundary between detached observation and immersion in the subject matter became even more blurred. "In time they allowed me to witness their fear, depression and anger," he wrote. "I soon realised that I, too, was feeling their pain. In staying close to them, I uncovered my own feelings of failure, frustration and rage."
Alongside Ed van der Elsken's 1956 work Love On the Left Bank, an altogether more staged kind of social document, Brooklyn Gang stands as one of the first in-depth photographic records of rebellious postwar youth culture. The book is now hard to find and prohibitively expensive to all but the serious collector (about £800 for a first edition, £300 for a second), but the Brooklyn Gang series is included in the first book of the epic three-volume Davidson retrospective,Outside Inside, just published by Steidl.
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. The gang shared a working-class, Italian-Catholic background, but look like they have walked straight off the set of West Side Story. The girls are timelessly hip in tight pants and white tops, with pinned-up piles of jet black or peroxide blonde hair. The male dress style is Italian hipster meets American rockabilly – Sinatra meets Elvis. The threads are sharp, the hairstyles tall and quiffed, and the attitude, as caught by Davidson's camera, is either defiant or aloof to the point of disinterested.
Behind the cool facade, though, lay a world of trouble that began to engulf the Jokers as Davidson trailed them. When Brooklyn Gang was finally reprinted by Twin Palms Press in 1999, it included an extended afterword by a 55-year-old man known as only as Bengie. At 15, Bengie had been one of the youngest members of the Jokers. He recalled his chaotic childhood as the son of alcoholic parents, and the beatings he received at school from priests and nuns. He remembered that the younger Jokers were into "drinking beer, smoking pot, maybe popping a pill here and there", and how the heroin came later, via older gang members. He reminisces over Lefty, "the first of the gang to die", a line later lifted by Morrissey, the great magpie of youth culture, for his song of the same name.
"If you see Jimmie, he's like the Fonz, like James Dean–handsome," Bengie says of Davidson's photographs of one of the older members of the Jokers. "Later, though, the whole family, all six of them – Charlie, Aggie, Katie, Jimmie, the mother and the father – died; wiped out, mostly from drugs."
The saddest story belongs to Cathy, the blonde and beautiful young girl whom Davidson photographed several times and whose reflection he caught unforgettably in a cigarette machine as she fixed her hair while waiting for the Staten Island ferry. "Cathy was beautiful like Brigitte Bardot," Bengie remembers. "Cathy always was there, but outside … Then, some years ago, she put a shotgun in her mouth and blew her head off."
Brooklyn Gang, then, is a document of inner-city youth culture at a time before the term was even coined. It is also a requiem for a bunch of Italian-American kids who bonded and, for a time, found a kind of community that had been denied them elsewhere – at home, in the church, at school. One of Davidson's photographs, a couple entwined in the back seat of a car, has attained a late iconic status after being used by Bob Dylan on his 2008 album, Together Through Life. The blonde-haired girl may even be Cathy.
"Beautiful Cathy was there, always with her honey, Junior," writes Bengie. "It was very sad to see her die. It was very sad to see her because she was so sad. She was always sad, always fixing her hair." You can see her that way in Davidson's great photograph of her standing in front of the cigarette machine, forever young, forever alive.

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