‘Violent Material’: an exploration of violent imagery in Brooklyn

"Violent Material." Credit: Steven Brahms.
“Violent Material.” Credit: Steven Brahms.

“Violent Material,” a photo series by Brooklyn-based photographer Steven Brahms, depicts men on the streets of Greenpoint and Williamsburg wielding guns in poses that recall action flicks and movie posters, their faces menacing and contorted, their hands tightly gripping a firearm that looks alarmingly real.

But is it alarming? That is the question Brahms poses: have these cinematic archetypes become so ubiquitous as to no longer elicit a truly startled reaction?

So he decided to recreate “these images that we are constantly being confronted by everywhere.”

“I just thought to myself, ‘I wonder what that would actually look like, if I saw a guy with a gun on my street,” Brahms said.

With 25 people shot on city streets this past weekend, it would seem that New Yorkers truly are constantly confronted with Violent Material.

According to the Daily News, this past weekend’s shootings make up five percent of this year’s approximately 440 shootings.

Brahms had a permit from the city, so his crew was accompanied by a uniformed NYPD officer. Still, he said, they drew the attention of various cops, both in uniform and plainclothes—or as Brahms described them, “the Yankees cops.”

“They always wear Yankees jerseys, have you noticed that?” he said.

Brahms found his subjects through Craigslist and various casting websites, and picked the applicants he thought echoed the iconic imagery of “the guy with the gun.”  

Even with professional talent, Brahms said, the shoot was “a little sketchy, because they’re holding guns in Brooklyn.”

“Some felt tough doing it, and then others felt somewhat scared doing it, because you don’t normally see a guy on the street at two o’clock in the afternoon holding a gun,” Brahms explained. “There was tension.”

But the process of taking the photos aligned with his initial feelings about the desensitizing effect of this kind of imagery of men with guns.

“That was what was so weird,” he said. “As soon as you take the picture, instantly [that tension] kind of deteriorates, and it’s not that interesting because you’ve seen it before and you’re seeing it again.”

In fact, the images appearing in Tuesday’s Metro will be yet another instance of that, Brahms noted: “It’s part of the project now,” he said. “It’s very cool.”

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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