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Natalie Keyssar March 17, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.

Dancehall party, Brooklyn 2013

Natalie Keyssar (b. 1984, USA) received her BFA in Painting and Illustration from Pratt Institute in 2009, she began to pursue photojournalism, which fused her love for visual storytelling with her deep interest in social justice. She is currently a member of Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent, a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, and works for a variety of other publications and organizations. Much of her personal work has focused on the themes of class inequality, and the cultures on the fringes of society. She was a 2013 Global Post Fellow for the “Burma Telling Its Own Story” project in Myanmar. Her work has been recognized with awards from American Photography 29, the NPPA, and The International Color Awards.

About the Photograph

“This is a picture from an ongoing project about the the Caribbean dancehall scene in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and the lives of the youth who are involved in it. The work explores a range of themes, from gender and sexuality and its expression in this form of dance, to the violence which seems to penetrate the lives of so many of these youth despite their best attempts to keep things positive and productive. Following these young dancers has lead me in several directions, many far outside the nightclubs where the project started, but I never cease to be amazed by the power and raw energy that they channel when they start moving together.”

“I shot this at a dancehall party around 3 a.m. on March 22nd, 2013, in East Flatbush, around the time the dance teams really get going and start competing with each other for the spotlight of the party videographers who post footage from the events on the internet. The energy of the crowd builds up and their focus comes together, first on one crew, then another. There’s an electricity that escalates as one group works to top the last, and their feet are moving in unison through steps that they work on every day, in their living rooms, and basements, and bedrooms. Dancehall music plays a complex role for youth growing up in what is often a very difficult environment. At times it seems to reinforce objectifying roles for women, and aggressive posturing for men, yet I’ve also come to see it as an important outlet, and a source of real empowerment, with roots in Caribbean Culture. In so many ways the system is failing these kids, and through this subculture they’re creating a space where they can strive for perfection and relieve some stress.”