Brooklyn Gang • Bruce Davidson • Magnum Photos

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Brooklyn Gang

A 25-year-old Bruce Davidson investigates a teenage gang in Brooklyn capturing the spirit of post-war youth culture in New York

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Brooklyn Gang on the boardwalk at West Thirty-third Street, Coney Island. Left to right: Junior, Bengie, Lefty. USA. Coney Island, New York City, USA.1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Lefty showing his tattoo. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Brooklyn Gang. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Woman smoking with friends New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Greasy young man who has been working on a car. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Group sheltering. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Bar in Brooklyn. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Young man in arcade. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Five figures in Brooklyn. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Couple necking on pole at basement party while girl looks on, from Brooklyn Gang. Brooklyn, New York, USA. 1957. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Brooklyn Gang. Teenager couple smoking at a kitchen table. New York City , USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Man in sunglasses smoking. New York City, USA . 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Backseat of a car. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Man in sunglasses hanging out with friends. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Coney Island Beach. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Coney Island. Kathy fixing her hair in a cigarette machine mirror. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson | Brooklyn Gang Brooklyn Gang. On the way home by bus. New York City, USA. 1959. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos

In 1959, Bruce Davidson read about the teenage gangs of New York City. Connecting with a social worker to make initial contact with a gang in Brooklyn called The Jokers, Davidson became a daily observer and photographer of this alienated youth culture.

The 1950s are often considered passive and pale by our standards of urban reality, but Davidson’s photographs prove otherwise. Nearly 70 sheet-fed gravure plates show images of tough people, tough lives, tough lovers, all trying to be cool. They are followed by a short recollection by the photographer and a lengthier interview with Bengie, a surviving gang member, who is now a drug counselor. These photographs of Brooklyn gangs, Davidson’s first project, were undertaken when he was not much older than the boys depicted in the work. Never before published as a whole, though frequently excerpted in collections, this gritty monograph is photo-documentation at its best.