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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Poverty, Family
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
New York City, Projects, Bronx, Youth, Children, Teen-agers
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
“Chavi” focuses on a surrogate family of fourteen-year old friends living in the projects in the southern Bronx, exploring issues of boyhood, adolescence, and belonging.
Sarah Blesener

2016 — student

About Sarah Blesener

The southern Bronx is littered with public housing, but Third Avenue is home to something unique: a surrogate family of six fourteen-year old boys. “Chavi” is a multi-media photography project that uses black and white images, video, diary notes and graphics to delve into issues of boyhood, adolescence, and belonging. “Chavi” is not just a study: it is collaboration. "Chavi" revolves around Chavi Leon and his five friends, Edwin, Marco, Jaylen, Cole, and Juan. They are each given journals and disposable cameras. Their words and images add another insight and look into the world of adolescence otherwise left hidden.

While murder has fallen to a historic low in New York City, the south Bronx has proven to be an exception. Isolated poverty and gang violence have kept these neighborhoods on the radar, and the New York Times is currently highlighting stories from the 40th Precinct in order to examine how and why killings continue in these areas. My aim is to avert our eyes to the adolescents who will be the ones to define the future. Life beyond the headlines exists in basketball courts, subways, living room floors, bridges, high schools, music classes, video games and all the normal activities that come to mind when thinking of teenage years.

In the midst of a harsh environment, Chavi and his friends have found belonging in one another. This bond is a cornerstone that is monumental for all six boys. They rely on each other when their families cannot afford money to provide them food, they help each other get back from school, and most importantly, they offer a second family of support and trust. The aim of “Chavi” is to explore this bond, and to examine the families that we make for ourselves. “Chavi” is also an effort to shed light on an area of New York that has routinely received negative attention. By collaborating with all of the individuals, my goal is also to involve them heavily in the project and allow their own voice to be heard by using their own photographs and journal entries. As Chavi himself says, "I always ask myself what things are going to look like. Because we are the future."

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Chavi Leone, 2 Mar 2016, Crotona Park, Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Chavi Leon on the way home from school, Bristow Street, Bronx, New York, 2 Feb 2016. Sarah Blesener
Edwin Amaro stands on top of a railing at the entrance of a project building in the southern Bronx, with friends Cole Jeffers and Chavi Leon, 27 Feb 2016, New York. Sarah Blesener
Cole Jeffers, Chavi Leon, Marco Vasquez and Edwin Amaro walking down the stairs of a project entrance, 17 Feb 2016, southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Icons decorate the locks of a door inside the apartment of the Leon's, 17 Feb 2016, southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Chavi and his father Frank Leon inside of their apartment, 27 Feb 2016,  southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Chavi Leon plays guitar for Cole Jeffers while the rest of his friends play a video game, 17 Feb 2016, southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Cole Jeffers, Juan Neira, Chavi Leon, Marco Vasquez, Jaylen Reid, and Edwin Amaro in front of Chavi's project entrance, southern Bronx, New York, 17 Feb 2016. Sarah Blesener
Chavi and friends huddle together for warmth in the courtyard of Chavi's project building at the end of a cold day, 17 Feb 2016, southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener
Cole Jeffers swings in front of apartment complexes, 19 Feb 2016, southern Bronx, New York. Sarah Blesener