This is Part II of a rolling conversation with photographer and sense provocateur
. For this interview I gave him simple prompts and he told me a story. Nothing has been edited except to provide clarity, nothing has been omitted.
Part I can be found here.
Sean: Tell me about 2012.
Worm: This year I’ve concentrated especially on my street. Getting familiar with all the Hispanic families and people who’ve been here for thirty years. One guy’s been here for 55 years. It’s been eye opening, in a way.
I enjoy it. I look at other areas that have been quote-unquote gentrified. And I’m really happy that this little neighborhood the correct Spanish word for it is barrio has survived like it has. My block is like a village, like a pueblo in that it’s really concentrated.
There’s so much Spanish culture here and I find that a lot of people outside of that don’t really interact with the people or the food. I mean if people think that going to the taqueria that Anthony Bourdain did a review on – if you think that’s coming into the neighborhood and being a part of the neighborhood then you’re very much mistaken.
Although I wouldn’t discount that place. The history behind it and the tortillas they make that pretty much supply Brooklyn. It’s only scratching the surface.
There’s so much culture here. Though it’s been diluted a lot; even by the Hispanic people themselves.
Sean: What’s the most remarkable thing that you’ve learned since you started focusing on your neighborhood and your block?
Worm: Well, keep in mind when I say that, that when I left South Florida I lived in a predominantly African American neighborhood, but I was always surrounded by Hispanics, Haitians, Jamaicans. I mean the Haitians used to call me se blanc which essentially meant white boy.
I was always mixing it up. I’m not saying that I didn’t hang out with white people. That would be some form of self hating. I was searching for something other than the surface and something more than who I am.
I think that growing up in an Italian-American home, and we were more American than Italian for sure, but life was about Sundays being dinner days. My mother was adamant about that and she’d make pasta fazool from scratch. Even though I’d consider myself a typical white person, I do fight it a little bit, and it comes from the roots of something bigger.
Going back to your question, it’s the community! And I knew that it existed, growing up in South Florida I saw it all the time! You know that, you’re from there. Even just tonight hanging out on the stoop, you see the kids running around, and you hear people say “Go get some ice cream at the bodega.” Every day is a block party but no one labels it that. There’s no proclamation. It’s more “this is who we are” rather than “this is what we do.”
For instance, I was talking to this one guy who now lives in the Bronx and he’s been there for six years. He grew up on this block and he comes back once or twice I month. I see him that often.
And we were just talking and he’s like, “I got to come back to my people. I got to come back to my block.”
I asked him how long he has to travel and he answers “An hour and a half one way on the train.”
Like I said, he’ll come back at a bare minimum once a month just to see the people he grew up with. That’s how close the community is.
I was talking to one of the guys on the street, and I can’t call them these guys. They’ve become my neighborhood family. They’ve become a piece of me. I can’t walk down the street without seeing one of my family members and sometimes you go “Hey, I’m busy what’s up? What’s going on?” and sometimes you stop and talk for five minutes, sometimes you stop and talk for two hours. Sometimes I’m sitting inside and I just have to go outside and talk to my family. Sometimes I’ve spent all day with my family.
It’s not like I tried to do that. But in the back my mind I felt like that’s what old New York was like. I can’t really say the late seventies to the eighties because there were some bad times. But maybe during the sixties.
Ultimately where are people really hanging out? They’re outside barbequing in their gated area. Or they’re inside spending time with their family.
Some of my family members are single with no kids, some are single mothers, some have wives and kids, some are older and divorced. It’s all across the board. But there’s a consistent community. Everyone watches out for each other. Cook together, drink together, some people smoke this or that. This is where they live.
I think that mentality comes from when they grew up. Back then you didn’t want to leave your street. You didn’t step on someone else’s street because they ran that street. That mentality is still there. Now it’s not like that, but back then you didn’t go on someone else’s block. And you didn’t come on this block if you didn’t know anybody. It’s the New York City mentality where everything is confined. It’s claustrophobic. So when you have a space, that’s yours, I own this space. And it’s a big space, it’s a block.
Sean: What was the moment in which you broke through whatever was there and met your future family?
Worm: Well there wasn’t really a moment. I didn’t really do this on purpose it just happened.
Actually, I can tell you this. One night I was coming home, it was late and I needed a lighter for some reason. So I asked one of the guys, you know, “Can I borrow a light?” I lit my smoke and hung out for a few minutes and talked with them.
It was just showing respect. I needed something, you had it and let me borrow it. Let me return the favor by hanging out for minute. Just showing respect.
You have to give respect to get any. I think that’s it.
The photographs included in this story are exclusive content created for Bushwick Daily and may not be reused without permission.