Portfolio: Brenda Ann Kenneally

From "Pictures of My Neighborhood" Project - Photo by Brenda Ann Kenneally

From the project " Money, Power, Respect (Pictures of My Neighborhood)" - Photo by Brenda Ann Kenneally

   Winner Of W. Eugene Smith Award 2000

Money, Power, Respect (Pictures of My Neighborhood)

Since 1996, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally has documented the families in her Brooklyn neighborhood, quietly witnessing their struggle with poverty, social institutions, and the illicit drug trade. Having inspired the likes of Eugene Richards and Thomas Roma, Brooklyn proves an inexhaustible muse, and Kenneally comes to the familiar ground with a fresh perspective. Her poignant, psychological photographs span generations, tracing the same people she sees everyday on her street. With her camera, Kenneally narrates their tale of both hope and despair as she explores how her subjects empower themselves in a lost culture of drugs and prison. Money, Power, Respect: Pictures of My Neighborhood chronicles pregnancies and births, institutions and streets, drugs and rehab, showing the community of inner-city families at once full of life and also institutionalized by the welfare system. Through it all, Kenneally evokes their dreams for a better life, tempered with the awareness that they may be caught in the cyclic lifestyle of limited opportunities. The photographs are in the best sense fully present, alive to what is, rather than searching for what is not. Her images draw us to hope for their survival and compel us to experience the depths and complexities of family life in the American social and justice systems. Money, Power, Respect details a crucial historical moment in our nation’s nearly total abandonment of the poor. This project makes it impossible to turn away from the yearning towards life, to detach the economics of the situation from the machinery of the heart.

Brenda Ann Kenneally

For several years, Brenda Ann Kenneally has been documenting the legacy of drug use from generation to generation in her Brooklyn, N.Y. neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, where she lives with her young son. “Ninety-nine percent of the photographs in my project occur on our own street,” she says. “Most conflicts here are about power. Money is a way to get power; drugs are a way to get money. Respect is power. The root of my project was teen mothers, but now I’m following families from mother to daughter to grandaughter.”

Brenda Ann Kenneally has photographed and reported on American families over the past two decades, and has been recognized and supported by the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, the Mother Jones Documentary Fund, the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Soros Criminal Justice Fellowship. Her book Money, Power, Respect won the Best Photojournalism Book at Pictures of The Year in 2006. Kenneally’s work for the past five years has been a look at coming of age in post-industrial America. An excerpt from this project, Upstate Girls, won the 2009 World Press Photo Award for Daily Life Series. In 2006, she investigated the living conditions of families on the Gulf Coast on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The multimedia feature of Kenneally’s reporting won a Webby Award.

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