This serves as a reference in photography. Please read, and write your reaction about the article. What lesson did you learn from It? Is the situation applicable here? In related cases? Specify.
Photography takes the professional to the war front. It leads him to the eye of the storm as it brews, to the floodwater as it rises and falls, to the heart of a society in trouble.
Photography is a friend and foe to different people. It offers fame, in fact heroism for which many photographers paid with their lives, in documenting people, events and places that shape our lives and history.
Photography is one of the most significant inventions of modern man. And it has broadened the various fields of discipline from art to politics, interconnecting them, and enhancing their common goal to "wire" the world through multi--media.
I am thankful to Life-Time for this article. As a regular subscriber of the Time Magazine, and recipient of Time-Life photographs and articles through my e-mail, I find it an opportunity to share selected articles such as this, for my students in photography, viewers of my Blog and audience on Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air).
Gang of New York: The Reapers, 1972
Courtesy of Life-Time
PhotographerJohn Shearer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Reapers president Eddie Cuevas meets with gang members, South Bronx, 1972.I
Forty years ago this week, LIFE magazine published an intimate and, for the time, remarkably even-handed article on the mounting problems associated with street gangs in New York and other cities around the country. The piece focused on one gang in particular — the Reapers in the South Bronx — and featured a series of powerful color pictures by a young photographer named John Shearer.
Shearer, only the second African-American staff photographer ever hired by LIFE — after Shearer’s mentor and friend, the great Gordon Parks — was uniquely qualified, among the magazine’s not terribly diverse stable of shooters, to capture the Reapers’ days and nights. But even he had trouble penetrating the gang’s wall of suspicion.
“I visited the neighborhood five or six times, without my camera,” Shearer recently told LIFE.com, “just so I could get a feel for that part of the South Bronx. A few times I was approached by Reapers asking me what I was dong there, but largely I was left alone.”
Then, on one fortuitous early morning after a late night in the neighborhood, an exhausted Shearer was sitting outside a bodega drinking a cup of coffee when a Reaper literally almost tripped over his legs. It turned out the young man was none other than Eddie Cuevas, the charismatic president of the gang.
Shearer and Cuevas got to talking, and when Cuevas learned that Shearer was not only a genuine photojournalist with an impressive list of assignments already under his belt, but that he was also the son of Ted Shearer, the groundbreaking visual artist and creator of the long-running comic strip , it was a done deal. The next day, Cuevas informed Shearer that he could begin shooting the Reapers lives in earnest.
“Eddie fancied himself something of an artist,” Shearer recalls. “He’d designed the Reapers’ colors, for example, and the fact that my dad was the man behind a comic strip that he read every day provided me with my ticket into his world, in a way.”
For its part, months later LIFE wrote of that world in its August 25, 1972, issue:
The article ended with a mention that Eddie had been arrested on a charge of attempted homicide. He was in Riker’s Island jail, awaiting trial. He eventually beat the charges, and even found some work for a time painting sets and doing other part-time work for theater companies after Shearer made a few inquiries in an effort to Cuevas escape the gang life.
How long Eddie’s “straight” life lasted, though, remains a mystery. Shearer lost touch with him, and with all the other Reapers, not long after the feature ran in LIFE — a not-unusual occurrence that, Shearer admits, was emblematic of one of the toughest parts of the job.
“You’d work for weeks on an assignment,” he told LIFE.com, “and sometimes — not always, but sometimes — the relationships and even the friendships you forged during that time could be pretty intense. But maintaining those relationships was close to impossible. It simply wasn’t like today, with email and Facebook and all the other ways people have of keeping in touch with each other, instantaneously, all over the world. You’d be off on another assignment, and then another, and then another, maybe all the way across the country, and there’s just no way that we could have stayed in touch with everyone we came in contact with and stayed on top of what they were doing, or even if they were dead or alive.”
In recent years, some of the Reapers from those days have gotten in touch with Shearer, finding him via the Internet and seeing if he might be interested in meeting again after all this time. In fact, not long ago he was invited to a reunion, of sorts, in the Bronx — but it turned out that the weather that day was hellish and it was impossible for him to travel down to see his old (some of them now old) acquaintances from where he now makes his home in a small town north of New York.
“I really would have liked to have been there,” he says, “but it just didn’t happen that day. Maybe some other time.” The way Shearer says it, that phrase — — sounds different than the way it does when most people use it. It sounds like he means it. It sounds like he wants it to be true.