Skip to main content

Best buds

by Dr Christopher Chapman, 15 July 2016

Koko & Kiko (42nd Street Series), 1980 by Larry Clark
Koko & Kiko (42nd Street Series), 1980 by Larry Clark

It’s important to have a best bud when you’re growing up. For many boys the transition from boyhood through adolescence is defined by wanting to fit in. Do you need to act tough to be accepted? What happens if you risk sharing your deepest feelings with your best bud? 

Thirty-five years ago American artist Larry Clark took photos of Hispanic boy hustlers along West 42nd Street in New York City. These were boys who turned to hustling to feed themselves and sometimes their families. Often they would look out for each other – like brothers loyal and protective of each other.

Larry Clark had been photographing young men and women on the edge of society since the early 1960s. In the late 1970s, living in New York, he made a series of photos of boys working on the street. The images are candid and observational and they reveal a great empathy for the boys he photographs. 

The art writer Lynn Zelevansky said in 1981 that these photos by Larry Clark were ‘sympathetic ones of sometimes beautiful, sensitive looking boys who are locked into a no-win situation’. The photographs in Tough and tender reveal how he sees boys – their bravado a mask for deep emotional need.