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Harold #1, Mott Haven Section of Bronx-- 2002

I met Harold D. near St. Ann's and 138th street. The encounter began as I had just set-up my tripod, but hadn't put the camera on yet. In fact, I wasn't really going to shoot anything at all on that corner. I just figured that if I put up the tripod, someone would come along and ask why, and we'd go from there. And that's what happened. Harold was polite, but he also had an edge to him. I didn't have my tape recorder with me, but even if I did, I probably wouldn't have used it. But the conversation went something like this:

Harold
The Bronx, huh. I know everything about the Bronx.

Me
Were you born 'round here?

Harold
No. Brownsville. I had six brothers and six sisters. You wanna put me in your book?

(And at this point he strikes a pretty phony pose)

Me
I dunno. There's lots of people in the Bronx want to get into this book.

Harold
(a bit crestfallen)
Yeah. Lot's of people in the Bronx.

Me
So, how'd you end up in the Bronx?

Now Harold begins to tell me a dramatic story -- something out of Dickens. How his father beat his mother. How he and his other brothers and sisters once tried to stop his father from beating his mother. And he is doing more than just telling the story. He's acting it out. When Harold wants to go back to the 7 year old Harold, that kid is there and waiting to come out. At times during the truly harrowing story, Harold lunges at me, as he talks about how he would have stuck a knife in his father, and I remain calm, and sympathetic. About halfway through the story, I realize that Harold is going to make a dramatic entrance into the book, and I take out my camera and slowly begin to shoot. At first, I see him freezing up, but then his gestures become even more theatrical. And perhaps, more real.

The story is this:


 

As Harrold D. told me the story of his life -- which he promised had a "happy ending," he acted out various parts. One moment, he was 43 years old, and telling me the story, the next he was an eight-year old kid, about to be separated from the rest of his family and shuffled into the foster-child system.

Something truly scary appeared in his eyes when he spoke about his father... and with good reason:

 

 

 

I offer several Bronx photographs as Note Cards here

All photography copyright Dave Beckerman.