Teenage Gangs of New York City in the late 1950s Through the Lens of Bruce Davidson

Although they were young, poor, and reckless, they were the epitome of 1950s cool. Bruce Davidson read about New York City’s teenage gangs in 1959. He contacted ‘The Jokers’ gang through a social worker and became a daily observer and photographer of this alienated youth culture.

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

Davidson’s photographs show that, despite our perceptions of urban life in the 1950s, the era was far from passive and apathetic. His photos portray tough people, tough lives, and tough lovers trying to be cool.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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