Photographer Befriended A 1950s Brooklyn Gang To Document Their Troubled Life

In the spring of 1959, a 25-year-old photographer Bruce Davidson decided to risk his safety and follow a teenage gang in New York city to document their fascinating life. There were about 1,000 gang members in NY at the time, mainly teenagers aged 12-19 from ethnically-defined neighborhoods that were the misfits of the society. Coming from poor Italian-American families, the teens were often rejected at home, in the church, or school. They often fought over “turf” and girls. Some boys would even wear pointed shoes so they could kick an enemy to death in just a few minutes.

“I met a group of teenagers called the Jokers,” Bruce recalled. “I was 25 and they were about 16. I could easily have been taken for one of them. In time they allowed me to witness their fear, depression, and anger. I soon realized that I, too, was feeling their pain. In staying close to them, I uncovered my own feelings of failure, frustration, and rage.” [Continue reading below…]