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Capturing Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way


Love isn’ t always black and white, and photographer Andre Wagner shows the range of the emotion through his gray-scale images.
“One of the things that I noticed quickly, ” the photographer Andre Wagner said of moving to Bushwick, Brooklyn, from Omaha in 2012, is “how you can see the affection of people out in public because so many things happen on the streets.” Mr. Wagner drew upon his background in social work when he started taking photos. “Living in Brooklyn, I see a lot of that family interaction, which I’ m really interested in capturing.”
He took these photos in April, roaming between Downtown Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Bushwick.
Mr. Wagner is also interested in the way different people come together on New York City subways and buses. “Here in New York, public transportation is such a big way of how people move around the city and all different kinds of people share the space, whether it is inside the subway or in a bus, ” he said. “So I’ m always interested in trying to figure out how to show the diversity or just the range of how we have to all share this space in transition.” Of his method, he said: “I almost never ask for permission to make photographs. The process is just an impulse. I make the photos and smile if the subject looks at me.”
Mr. Wagner often stands near subway stops to see the foot traffic. This photo was taken on Broadway, a main strip in Brooklyn, right under the subway. “They just caught me visually, ” he said. “I thought they looked striking and interestingly put together.”
This scene reminded Mr. Wagner of Jill Freedman’s 1976 photograph of girls jumping rope on a roof. “It’s such an amazing photograph, it’s so lyrical, the gestures are just beautiful, ” he said. “When you see a photograph that is so good and you are photographing that same kind of subject matter, you want your photo to be able to live up to that a little. But her photograph is amazing, but this is an ode to Jill because her picture touched me so much.”
Keston, left, and Cedric, both 11, live in Mr. Wagner’s neighborhood. He photographs them often. This photo was taken around the time that Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old in Texas, was fatally shot by a police officer. “They are not far from that age, ” Mr. Wagner said. “It hits so close to home: That could have easily been you, that could have easily been Keston. So that American flag holds so much weight.”
“Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way, ” the Notorious B. I. G.’s lyric from the 1994 song “Juicy, ” comes to mind with this photo. “He’s representing Brooklyn, he’s got his kids, they are all fitted up, they’ ve got their hats — I just thought it was a great moment, ” Mr. Wagner said. “Black fathers, they get a certain kind of stigma. But I see this all the time where black fathers are out with their kids, just holding their hand, taking them to school, just being present, being a dad. I love that kind of image.”
“It was so tender and so sweet and so sincere, ” Mr. Wagner said of the way this woman knelt to talk to a girl he thought may be her daughter. “And it was visually just really beautiful the way they just fell into the center of the sidewalk and everything else formed around them.”
This photo was taken in Downtown Brooklyn. Mr. Wagner liked that there is a hidden message in this image: “I just love the way her jacket kind of fell in front of the trash bin and highlighted the word that says ‘love.’ ”
This photo was taken on Nostrand and Fulton Avenues, a spot Mr. Wagner likes to frequent; because the streets are wide and the buildings low, he is able to capture light and space. He thought this couple was very stylish, but also liked showing all the other people who made up the scene. “The guys next to the subway are Jehovah’s Witness, and there is also a delivery guy in the background, ” he said. “Just people occupying the street that are part of the neighborhood.”
Bodegas are a lifeline in New York City, and this photo was taken at one in Brooklyn. Mr. Wagner was reminded of his past when he saw these two: “It made me think about when I was in high school, you know, trying to talk to the girls and be cool. There is a sense of agency that kids have over their own life in New York that is really interesting. They are out, they are on the bus and on the subway. They are moving around in a different kind of way than I grew up with in Omaha when I was in my parents’ car.”
Mr. Wagner is very interested in documenting moments in parent-child relationships. “It feels like this silent moment in this busy downtown street, ” he said.
Mr. Wagner spends a lot of his time photographing on the subways. So why was he drawn to this scene? “It was a windy morning and it was blowing her hair, and there was just something about all the movement, ” he said. “I don’t even think she noticed me.”
This photograph was taken near some basketball courts in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where children from the neighborhood were playing. Mr. Wagner was initially drawn to this boy’s braids, jean jacket and Jordan sneakers. But he then sought to capture an introspective moment. “I feel like he should be so happy, but he looks so bored and he looks off alone by himself, ” he said. “So I liked the contrast of this: what he’s doing, but how he actually feels.”
Something about this woman reminded Mr. Wagner of someone he knew in Omaha. She had “something very classic or traditional about her look that I was interested in.”
Mr. Wagner spends a lot of his time biking or walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. “This woman was walking toward me, and I just felt that this bridge served as a runway and she is having her own fashion show, ” he said.
This is not the first time Mr. Wagner has photographed this stylish man. He sees him all over Brooklyn, and “he’s always superfly, ” Mr. Wagner said, adding, “The last time I photographed him he had on some overalls.”
“I’ m drawn to interactions with people, ” Mr. Wagner said. “If you are in a neighborhood or you are part of a culture, you see the full range of how people live.”
More love shown here. “I saw them coming from down the street and they were just in their own world, it was like nothing else around them mattered, they were just engaging with each other, ” Mr.

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