(video by Dallas Athent)
Upon moving to Bushwick in 2006, Daryl-Ann Saunders heard gunshots outside her window at 4AM. She witnessed a dead body on the street (!), and understood that there were times in ’70s and ’80s Bushwick when such occurrences were the norm. While much of New York in those decades was harder up than now, Bushwick had a particular reputation for arson, crime and gang activity. In that moment, Saunders pictured the Bushwick of the ’70s and ’80s as a lawless “Wild West.” She wondered who the people were who contributed to the neighborhood through those times by sticking through it and offering a strong sense of commonwealth when so many others fled. Those citizens were ultimately responsible for making this amazing community what it is today.
Saunders, being a photographer, grabbed her camera and started thinking of ways to capture the O.G.’s. The pioneers. “I had this idea of the Pioneers of Bushwick and it was fortunate that I saw, through the Brooklyn Arts Council, they actually were pairing up artists with senior centers for an artist residency program. So I put in a proposal, and I chose a senior center that was in the area, which was the Diana Jones Senior Center. It worked our very well.”
Saunders met with residents of the senior center and asked to take their portraits, and then went on to ask their stories. In her exhibit, she pairs direct stories as told from the pioneers alongside their photos.
Since then, her “Pioneers of Bushwick” project has been exhibited in the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center as well as at The Silent Barn. But in case you missed it at either location, Bushwick Community Darkroom has sponsored the show for Bushwick Open Studios. It will be on exhibit at The Loom through July 8. “It’s been an interesting way for me to get to know my neighborhood,” Saunders says. We couldn’t agree more.