The Bronx has a terrible beauty— stark and harsh—like the dessert. At first glance you imagine nothing can survive. Then you notice life going on all around. People adapt, survive, and even prosper in this urban moonscape of quick pleasures and false hopes.
In the 1700s Thomas Hobbes described life in a state of nature as “continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Life is still that way in The Bronx.
I took my first photos, at John Durniak’s request, for Look Magazine in 1977. Look died while I was on assignment. I continued for two decades, sometimes staying on the block for weeks at a time, sometimes visiting only once or twice a year.
These are pictures of friends I met as children who became my family, as well as, people who stepped in front of my camera once and disappeared forever. I watched my friends grow up, fall in love, have children of their own. The boys in the original “crews” are now in their forties—their children are becoming adults. A few, including my two Godsons, have made it; many others are dead or in jail.
Often I am terrified of The Bronx. Other times it feels like home. My images reflect the feral vitality and hope of these young men. The interplay between good and evil; violence and love; chaos and family are the themes—but this is not a documentation. There is no “story line”. There is only a feeling.