Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang at Cleveland Museum of Art

A new exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art will feature fifty photographs from Bruce Davidson’s seminal 1959 Brooklyn Gang series. The influential American documentary photographer’s first major project was the result of several months spent photographing the daily lives of ‘the Jokers’, one of the many teenage gangs operating in New York City at the time. The prints included in the exhibition form part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum, including several sets of variant images from the artist’s archive, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.

Davidson approached the Jokers after reading a newspaper article detailing their fight with a Puerto Rican gang. Whilst many commentators at the time viewed the gangs as evidence of a decline in social cohesion resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of young males who felt they had no place in society.

For the most part, Davidson’s subjects were Catholic school students or dropouts. ‘I was 26 and they were 15, but I could see my own repression in them and I began to feel a connection to their desperation. I began to feel their isolation and even my own.’ Davidson’s sensitive photographs reflect the individuals’ alienation but also their openness. He spent time with them, getting to know his subjects. Describing his process, the photographer says, ‘I stay a long time… I am an outsider on the inside.’

Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang will run from 18 July 2020 through 29 November 2020 at The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. Find out more here.

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