Sarah Boxer, When Trouble Was Harder to Find, N.Y. Times, Jan. 8, 1999, at E41.
“What it used to wind up is, nobody was tough. We were all tough, but nobody was the toughest, although we knew which guys in the gang were tougher.” These confounding words come from Bengie, one of the few surviving members of the Jokers, the gang of teen-agers that Bruce Davidson photographed in the summer of 1959. In an exhibition of 50 of Mr. Davidson’s black and white Brooklyn photographs at the International Center of Photography, you can see exactly what Bengie means.
The gang members Mr. Davidson photographed were 15, 16 and 17 years old, innocent and trying hard not to be. Some were tougher than others, but there was a limit to how much trouble they could find that year. Their home turf was the corner of Eighth Avenue and 17th Street in Brooklyn, but they also hung out in Prospect Park, Helen’s Candy store, subway cars, sandwich shops and under the Coney Island boardwalk, showing off their hair, their sunglasses, their cigarettes, their tattoos and their girls.