A 1977 assignment for Look magazine took award-winning photographer Stephen Shames to the Bronx, where he began photographing a group of boys coming of age in a neighborhood of the borough that at the time was among the toughest and poorest in the United States. The boys Shames documented lived on streets ravaged by poverty, drugs and violence. They bonded together and raised themselves in “crews” – adolescent families they created for protection and companionship. Shames’s empathy for the boys earned their trust and respect, and over the next two decades, as the crack cocaine epidemic devastated their community, they allowed him extraordinary access into their lives on the street and in their homes.
Bronx Boys (University of Texas Press, October, 2014) presents a collection of 123 duotone photographs made by Stephen Shames from 1977-2000. Shames captures the brutality of the period — the fights, shootings, arrests, and drug deals — that eventually left many of the boys he photographed dead or in jail. But he also records the joy and humanity of the young men, as they mature, fall in love, and have children of their own. Challenging perceptions of a place that was dismissed by many as irredeemable, Bronx Boys reveals that hope and redemption is possible everywhere.
Bronx Boys will have its official New York launch next week with an exhibition opening and book signing at Steven Kasher Gallery and a book party and signing at BronxArtSpace.
Bronx Boys was originally published as a digital photo monograph and e-book by FotoEvidence Press. The photo editing and sequencing for both the digital and print version of the book is by Regina Monfort.