PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE BENSONHURST SERIES
@ THE SOCIAL - COPENHAGEN. APRIL 25th. 2013
In 1992-93 the photographer Kevin Broadbery was in New York attending ICP, the International Center of Photography. It was during the course of his studies that he embarked upon the Bensonhurst series. This is a series in black and white that for the main part depicts the lifestyle of young Italian/Americans. The sons and daughters of a hard working generation of Italian immigrants that abandoned the shores of a post second world war ravaged Italy and flooded the eastern coastline of America from a twofold desire to survive and to also obtain a chunk of that all `American Dream´. What clearly comes across in this series are honest images that portray the subjects as a consummate generation. This is the `stuff´ generation, the "wanna have it, gotta have it" generation. From the clothes to the make-up, from the hairstyles to the jewelry, from the endless gadgets to the ultimate status symbol, the car. All are embalmed in an essence of smells that vary from hair lacquer to the exhaust fumes of cruising cars. The images paraded are so believable and authentic that yes, you can almost distinguish the peroxide from the alcohol laden breath. The images are all fueled with bustling activity that for me are all tinged with a reality of an inevitable sadness, a huge investment of energy in a lost cause. The great American experiment, doomed to failure. Before your eyes you can sense the corpus becoming enlarged by a steady diet of fabricated food while at the same time being suffocated by chemical sprays and additives that enhance the personal well being shored up on a short term contract agreement. The images are a perfect example of pathos blanketed in a lifestyle that does it´s best to convince itself and everybody else that it´s having fun, participating in a party that never ends. The series almost, if not does, encourage an accompanying soundtrack. The fifth track, `Racing in the Street´ from Bruce Springsteen´s seminal album. `Darkness on the Edge of Town´ from 1978 will do and a text exert that reads;
"Tonight, tonight the strips just right
I wanna blow´em off in my first heat
Summer´s here and the time is right
For racin´ in the street.
The mark of a really good photographer is that you can look at an image without feeling any sense of the photographers presence. Kevin Broadbery has the enviable talent in being able to photograph people and the event without being an obtrusive influence. I have seen him do it. From my perspective to witness the initial intrusion is mildly embarrassing. He just enquires politely if he may? and they avail themselves to him. They strut and flaunt as if posing for the camera is an everyday event and they become the perfect partnership for a photographic autopsy that is all so fascinatingly vulgar but with no evidence of deceit.
In creating a specific series of photographs you might just get lucky and capture the one image above all others that is iconic. The image that just stands for itself with a solitary stance and tells numerous stories of which no one can discern the truthful one. There is such an image in the Bensonhurst series. Along with all the other images It has no title. The photograph I am referring to is of a young man with a scar on the back of his head, he is positioned with his back to the viewer and is being embraced by a young lady with blond hair and large hands. To my mind this image is at that place we least wish to be, it is that place called sadness. The one place we all have to go to in order to become that better person. I cannot decipher the truth of that moment that is captured by the camera. They could be lovers, good friends or even brother and sister. It could be a breaking up, a departure of sorts or simply the sharing of a common sadness. Inevitably our own personal presumptions and prejudices will play a role in attempting to unravel the truth without us ever knowing how close or far we are from the actual accuracy of the occasion. But we do know sadness and that it comes in all shapes and sizes and also, that as long as we live the dosage never completely evaporates. This image, if anything is a poignant reminder of that fact.
"Bensonhurst" was one of the first series that Kevin Broadbery completed. There are other series waiting in the wings ready to be launched on a visually educated public but this was the first and we all know that the first of anything is a very powerful opiate that resides within the frontal lobe for a long time and taints, for better or for worse all the experiences that follows in its wake. It is a rare occasion indeed that we are all privileged to share this series of Kevin Broadbery´s photography. It is not the series in its entirety, just a generous portion. It will hang together for the first time in an exciting new venue, namely `The Social´ which is situated at the edge of the old red light and meat packing district of Copenhagen. On the whole when looking at the the Bensonhurst series I am not so sure that `I love Bensonhurst´ (you can almost see the slogan on a t-shirt with the inevitable cliched red heart) but I do love the photographs and I hope that you do to.
Galvin Harrison, Copenhagen 2013