The Bronx had almost stopped burning by 1979. The intensity and extent of the devastation permeated the landscape. It was an awesome mess, not just another neighborhood, but another realm, visible but incomprehensible. The Bronx came undone in a confluence of unfortunate circumstances: the life cycle of community, rampant city planning, economic change, racism, poverty, failed hopes, drugs, crime, abandonment, counterproductive government response. It was destroyed for profit. The entire story has yet to be told.
A friend suggested to photographer Lisa Kahane that she record it for a time when it would be a memory, which was then impossible to imagine. The ruins of the immediate past overwhelmed any idea of a future. Ironically, Kahane had a good time in the Bronx. People smiled and said, “Throw me a photo!” Few objected to having their picture taken and no one tried to take her camera away. They wanted their story told. Any discomfort the camera might inflict was nothing compared to what they’d endured.
The result, Do Not Give Way to Evil: Photographs of the South Bronx, 1979–1987, is an extraordinary document of devastation and rejuvenation, as Kahane records the first seeds of rebuilding. Throughout this desolate world, the people live alongside abandoned buildings and debrisstrewn lots, carr ying on their business with civic pride. Though the buildings may be ghosts of their former selves, the spirit of the people holds strong.
Lisa Kahane, a working photographer for over 25 years, specializes in documentary work and portraiture. A native New Yorker, educated at Barnard College, Columbia University, and the New York Studio School, she has worked on location in Europe and in Central and South America. She spent time on all four sides of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to solo shows depicting art and culture in the 80s, her work was featured in Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s at the Bronx Museum and included in documentation for The American Century at The Whitney Museum. Her photographs are in private collections as well as the permanent collections of the New York Public Library, the Fales Library at NYU, and the Library of Congress. She runs a photography and autobiography workshop for kids at risk.
You can pre-order now at Powerhouse books for $35.00.