Arts & Culture

Jack Garofalo The Gentleman Reporter in Forbidden Harlem and Bronx – 1924-2005

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Jack Garofalo: The Gentleman Reporter in Forbidden Harlem and Bronx – 1924-2005.

Opening: Saturday, Feb. 24th 2024.

Zirkstraat 20 – 2000 Antwerpen, T: +32 (0)3 289 84 58. www.gallery51.com

Gallery FIFTY ONE will be celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout 2024 and 2025.

For this exhibition, we had the honour of working with Paris Match, who offered us the unique opportunity to go through their photographic archive to access this exclusive body of work.

Jack Garofalo was so skilled at slipping in almost anywhere that he was nicknamed La Ficelle – The String. First it was into the world of reporters, where he was invited by happenstance, thanks to his friend Daniel Filipacchi, who gave him his first Leica and opened the doors to Paris Match. Jack stayed there for 40 years, leaving the magazine a treasure trove of tens of thousands of photos. But what “Kiki” did best was wind himself around the hearts of his models – from the Shah of Iran, who lent him all his armoured vehicles for one picture, to Hemingway, whose entire bar he knocked back on one memorable night, his very first story.

His great friend Federico Fellini had asked him to play a paparazzo in “8ó”, but Jack preferred summer games of belote with Brigitte Bardot in Saint-Tropez. With a mixture of cunning and lightheartedness, which often enraged his bosses, his audacity could unnerve the toughest ones.

One day, he took André Malraux out on the waters of India’s Ganges River. “Stop your twitching, Minister, you’re going to capsize the boat.” No-one had ever dared speak to the writer like that and Malraux exploded with laughter. “Chic et voyou,” as they say at Match – the stylish lout, the gentleman brat.

This audacity and elegance would be his keys to opening the doors of Harlem in 1970, his most remarkable story. Back then, no white person dared set foot in New York’s Black neighbourhood.

Once a haven for an up-and-coming African-American elite, a hope ‘ghettoised’ by poverty and discrimination. “Too dangerous,” murmured New York friends. A challenge for the gentlemanadventurer, exasperated by prejudices that he intended to confront. Yes, he was given a rough reception but, when threatened straight out of the gate he replied to a colossus of a man – who would become his guide: “It would be better to help me than hassle me.”

With the same aplomb, he arrived unexpectedly at the headquarters of the Black Panthers, who warmed to his ways and provided him with unobtrusive protection.

Garofalo did nothing to hide the poverty, drugs and violence that reigned over the neighbourhood, but preferred to linger on the teeming political and cultural activity in this city within the city. The tense atmosphere was unwound with laughter, easy smiles and kindness, towards this stranger. Seven years later, Jack Garofalo would explore the Bronx with the same powers of observation.

These two stories – written more than 50 years ago and predictably peppered with some dated thoughts the contemporary reader might snag upon – are still unquestionably modern. His humanist eye does not lie, his lens captures life rather than death.

“In the raging madness of Harlem, the journey could have ended badly”, La Ficelle mused. “Fear is contagious there, and so is hatred. Less so, though, than confidence and hope.”

Written by: gapciud68

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