Magdalena Waz


Even though gentrification has wiped out quite a number historic places in Bushwick, the drive to preserve pockets of the area’s history has remained strong. Newsweek highlighted the work of photographer Shadi K. Best who dedicated years to documenting the daily lives of the Forbidden Ones, a local motorcycle club.

The work, containing over 1,000 photos and 100 hours of video, is tentatively titled “The Forbidden Ones MC” and has only been exhibited once at Bushwick Open Studios.

It took a long time for Best to build a rapport with members of the club in 2011; some of them were distrustful of outsiders. Best says the “photos of the Forbidden Ones, MC represent an attempt to understand one motorcycle club on the basis of who they are as seen by me. Incomplete as that perspective may be, it was important to work independent of stereotypes.”

As Best worked over months and years, he spent time with a member nicknamed Eightball, who turned out to be an informant for a joint task force of New York’s police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The NYPD and ATF raided several location in Bushwick associated with the Forbidden Ones and found 61 unregistered firearms, seven improvised explosive devices, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a .50-caliber cannon in 2012. 

That’s part of why the photo project stalled. Best felt like some members had noted his close relationship with Eightball and started to question his own motives.

You can see the video Best shot with Martinez’s son, a filmmaker himself, for Bushwick Open Studios in 2014 below.

Best’s work, if it ever gets exhibited to the public, will be a testament to the tangled lives of people who called Bushwick home before it was trendy, expensive, and safer.

Featured image by Shadi K. Best.