Russell K. Frederick loves his community, which is my own ‘hood, too. This weekend the New York Times profiled the photographer, who has spent the past decade chronicling life in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Anybody who’s called Bed-Stuy home is familiar with the caricature of it as “Do or Die, Bed-Stuy.” That reputation is owed partly to hip hop lore, partly to real drug-war history and partly to so many folks’ plain fear of a black planet. Today, outsiders still seem to see one of two things here: scary black men hanging out in public and pretty brownstones that could be flipped for a fast million. Frederick sees the real neighborhood instead. Here’s what he told the Times:
I started photographing in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1999. I was just starting out as a photographer. The motivation behind it was really that when I told people where I lived, they would cringe as if Bed-Stuy was this place where I had to wear a helmet and a bulletproof vest. They assumed it to be this slum or this place that was just a war zone. And it actually was completely the opposite.
I might see images of robberies, shootings and acts of violence in Bed-Stuy, but never did I see images of the sweet things about the community. Images about the love, about family, about the diversity, about the good people, about all of these wonderful things that actually take place in the community. It is so rich with history. I mean Spike Lee, Lena Horne, Chris Rock, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Earl Graves and even Jackie Gleason lived in Bed-Stuy.
So he’s helping us all see the sweetness. Check out the Times’ slideshow, but more importantly go over to Kickstart and throw Frederick a few bucks. He’s trying to put on his first solo show, which he calls, simply, “Black.” Love that. Not to mention that whole Isaac Hayes look he’s got going in the Kickstart video above.
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