The Changing Faces of a Brooklyn Neighborhood

The Photo Blog
Jan. 19 2014 11:02 AM

The Changing Faces of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant

Ian Robinson, a communications engineer originally from Trinidad and Tobago, takes a cigar break after shoveling some snow in front of his house. Bedford-Stuyvesant, winter 2013.

Russell Frederick

Given a choice, Russell Frederick would much rather be on the street photographing the multi-cultural neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, N.Y., than doing just about anything else.

“Capturing people as they are, just informing the world, challenging people to think a bit differently ... not being the voice of people but giving a platform to the people in the community—my camera records all the greatness I see,” Frederick said during a phone interview.

A Brooklynite by birth to Panamanian parents, Frederick started out studying architecture and nursing but decided to take one photography class at the International Center of Photography and quickly fell in love with taking pictures. No one else in his family had ever pursued a career as an artist—“You have to be out of your mind,” he said with a laugh about his family’s reaction—and Frederick couldn’t afford to take another photography class, so he began scouring bookstores for photo books to soak up as much as he could about the craft. He was also fortunate to have Magnum photographer Eli Reed as his neighbor. Reed became Frederick’s mentor, eventually helping him get a job handling drop-offs at Magnum. “I learned a whole lot just looking at the contact sheets of the photographers there,” Frederick said.

Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday at Janes United Methodist Church on Malcolm X Boulevard. Bedford-Stuyvesant, spring 2004.

Russell Frederick

Yaya Alafia is an actress and model of Brazilian and Nigerian descent from New York. Joshua Bee Alafia is a filmmaker and cinema photographer also from New York.The couple gave birth to a healthy baby boy a week after the photos namedSankara Mamadou Bee Alafia. Bedford-Stuyvesant, summer 2013.

Russell Frederick


Frederick prefers to shoot with his Rolleiflex camera and, when he has some, black-and-white film. “There is a certain classic appeal that black-and-white film has,” Frederick said. “When you think about life, it comes down to black and white and shades of gray. The world exists in color, but black and white can simplify things in a way that may seem artistic or nostalgic but most of all just timeless.”

Over the years, Frederick has watched Bed-Stuy evolve and gentrify rapidly, as has been the case in many New York City neighborhoods. He said although there has always been coverage of the neighborhood, much of it focused on the negative aspects of the community rather than its virtues. Frederick said he prefers to focus on the diversity of the cultures and individuals who make up the neighborhood while trying to capture as many moments as possible.

Frederick said that watching the Bedford-Stuyvesant real-estate market boom and many small businesses close down as a result has made him appreciate the value of documenting the neighborhood for as long as he has. “Whenever I pick up a camera, I’m trying to uplift,” he said. “I hope I have honored the community and the good people of Bed-Stuy who haven’t gotten a fair shake. The community needs to be honored, and the pioneers need to be honored."

Mr. and Mrs. Pritchett met at Morgan State University in Maryland and lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant for more than 40 years. Mr. Pritchett was a teacher, and Mrs. Pritchett was a parole officer. Mr. Pritchett died in 2012, and this was their last picture together. Bedford-Stuyvesant, winter 2010.

Russell Frederick

Dr. Robert Gore, wearing a hoodie as a tribute to Trayvon Martin, poses for a portrait in front of a mural dedicated to Yusef Hawkins on Verona Place. Gore is an emergency room physician and executive director for the Kings Against Violence Initiative in Brooklyn. Bedford-Stuyvesant, spring 2012.

Russell Frederick

A local musician visiting friends gives an encore performance of Smokey Robinson's "I Second that Emotion" at a barbecue. Bedford-Stuyvesant, summer 2005.

Russell Frederick

Michael Young poses for a portrait on Lexington Avenue right before he enters church for Sunday school. Bedford-Stuyvesant, fall 2011.

Russell Frederick

Uwalia Muahgedo is a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Uwa is from the Edo tribe in Nigeria. She often incorporates her country's fashion in her style. Theankara(skirt) is from her tribe. Bedford-Stuyvesant, winter 2013.

Russell Frederick

Mr. Walker (background) and Mr. Rodriguez are seeing each other for the first time this year at the local bodega on Gates Avenue. Mr. Walker is a retired porter from Cuba, and Mr. Rodriguez is a retired factory worker from Puerto Rico. Bedford-Stuyvesant, spring 2013.

Russell Frederick

A man stops to take a picture with hispride and joy—his 1958 Ford Galaxie—on Bedford Avenue. Bedford-Stuyvesant, spring 2007.

Russell Frederick



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