Bob (Bengie) Powers, who grew up in Brooklyn in the nineteen-fifties, had his first drink at eight years old, stabbed someone at twelve, was out of school by sixteen, and was taking drugs at eighteen.
Bruce Davidson, the iconic photographer known for his pictures of the New York City subway, The Dwarf, East 100th Street, and the Brooklyn Gang, also photographed the street gang called the Jokers, of which Bengie was the leader. Nearly forty years later, Bob Powers got in touch with the Davidsons.
Emily Haas Davidson, Bruce’s wife, has spent over ten years talking to Bobby, and, in “Bobby’s Book,” they recount his tumultuous young years of violence, drug addiction, crime, love, and loss.
“I think back about how the alcohol and drugs got me to be so mean. It’s like I don’t even think it was me that I’m talking about. I’m a totally different and changed person. It’s like the guy I’m talking about is a guy that I once knew. He doesn’t really exist anymore. This guy is dead, and I can tell you all about him because I hung out with him, I was very close to him. But I’m not that guy.”
Here’s a look at Bengie and his Brooklyn gang from “Bobby’s Book,” recently published by Seven Stories Press: http://nyr.kr/X8uem7
Photographs by Bruce Davidson.