Here’s an excellent piece from The New York Times on how not to document a community but even better, through the works of Lisa Kahane’s book, “Do Not Give Way To Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979-1987”, the piece illustrates how documentary photography can be properly done.

Maurice Berger writes:

“Seventy-four years later, a new book by the photographer Stephen Shames titled “Bronx Boys” (University of Texas Press) rekindles questions about the responsibilities inherent in documenting a community.

“Bronx Boys” chronicles a group of young men coming of age in an environment besieged by poverty, drugs and gang warfare. It focuses on a subculture of “crews,” informal associations of mostly adolescent men teamed together for protection and companionship.

Berger goes on to say:

“The reality of poverty in the Bronx, however, was far more complicated. Although some young people joined gangs or succumbed to drugs, many more did not. And despite stereotypes to the contrary, the borough was — and remains — a place rich with history, politics, and culture.

This complexity informs Lisa Kahane’s “Do Not Give Way to Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979-1987” (powerHouse). Published in 2008, the book does not shy away from the tragedy of almost unimaginable urban decay and neglect. But “however impoverished the landscape,” as Ms. Kahane observed, “life went on, which was awesome. No building in the Bronx was truly abandoned.”

“Do Not Give Way to Evil” brims with the vitality of individuals going about their everyday activities in the face of adversity: They rush to work, shop, hug their friends, pick wildflowers in an abandoned garden, attend a street fair, congregate on a stoop and listen to music.

Ms. Kahane represents these lives through a broad cultural and social lens. She portrays the privation, rubble and despair. But she also documents the markets, fashion, landmarks, public art, demonstrations, protest banners and political graffiti that defined the South Bronx and attested to the grit and self-possession of many of its residents.”

Read the full article over at the New York Times: A Limited View of Boys From the Bronx – NYTimes.com.

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