Every Street is A Quiet Street
Any photographer knows that to see a city—to really see the city—you need to walk it. Over the course of five years, that’s exactly what Laurent Chevalier did. His project Enough is a walking document of New York, which pays specific attention to the lived experience of its Black communities.
At times the black-and-white images lean on stark, contemplative compositions. Chevalier watches a boy on a bus, alone, who returns his gaze apprehensively; the window of the bus filling the frame with the washed-out buildings of a passing borough. Even the images where children congregate on the streets, a scene that could easily embody a sense of liveliness, is placid. Their small bodies wrapped in the wet fabric of bathing suits, stoic under the mist of an open fire hydrant. In a place where frenetic energy reigns, I find myself breathing a little deeper as a response to his work.
When speaking about ‘The Decisive Moment’, both in the 1952 book by the same title and the popular working philosophy of many photographers since, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson believed there to be a single moment when all the elements within a frame align. Which is not necessarily the “peak of the action”, but more of a “formal peak”. For Chevalier, this principle is very much applied. The interstitial moments are formally more important than those filled with action.
Enough explores the themes of ‘patriotism, power, family and spirit’ and I’ve been mediating on those words specifically, as they related to quiet of Chevalier’s work. The sequencing of this project which began in 2014, a year after the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement, during a time when much of the imagery in circulation portrayed a level of violence, discrimination, and fundamental disquiet for Black lives.
If this is not your lived experience, it might be easy to conflate the images that grab our dwindling attention as the decisive moments of our time; to lose sight of the spectrum of experience beyond the violence. Outside of the news cycle and the systemic shortcomings of society, what is underneath all of that is an exhale. Chevalier holds space for a community and a place that are not strictly defined by its moments of action, but by the simple connective threads of the everyday.