Bravo to the 2015 film The Wolfpack Directed by Crystal Moselle.
Working one slow monday evening on the Lower East Side in New York, I was staring out the window when 6 men - who looked at first glance as if they'd just walked out of the Matrix trilogy - walked past. Their stunning almost enigmatic look captured my eye immediately. 'Someone must be shooting a film', I thought. I threw my wine key to my boss, said 'I'll be back in 5' and ran out after them. I lost them, they were gone. I stood for a good two minutes on the street, when I noticed a few people in front of me pointing and whispering. I turned around, and there they were. That is how I met the 6 Angulo Brothers: Jagadisa, age 12, Krsna, age 13, Mukunda, age 16, the twins Govinda and Naryana, age 18 and the oldest Bhagavan who was age 19.
This was in October 2010. That evening as I ran after them I found them sitting in a cafe with girl who looked my age. The brothers looked so young. Much younger than from afar. Some had a smirk. They were pleased to be noticed but surprised too. Some just observed me. And then there was that girl/woman. I remember her blonde hair and her curious questions. I wasn't sure why she was so curious about my intentions. I thought the boys would be more curious than her. I had no idea what my intentions were. I had just followed an impulse. An impulse that these 6 guys, who turned out to be brothers, had to be captured on film. They didn't say much- not surprising- they didn't know me from jack. I gave them my number and email and told them to reach out if they ever wanted to do a shoot and meet up. Govinda took my note. I remember him smiling at me. The young woman, Crystal Moselle finally warmed up and then told me she was doing a documentary about them. 5 years later (6 when I am writing this) I was so very happy to hear that her documentary and their remarkable story The Wolfpack won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. So well deserved!
In fall of 2013 I had a photography Exhibition in Brooklyn. With their portraits and the story from our afternoon together. The Angulo brothers captivated me then and they still do. Hopefully one day they will let me capture them on film again.
Brooklyn Looks East / B R O T H E R S B O N D
The Angulos are six brothers that every now and then are seen roaming the streets of the Lower East Side. They hide their innocent eyes behind sunglasses. Their hair reaches down to the back of their thighs and is taken back by a hair tie and with movie star grace they wear their finest suits. Which are dashing and sophisticated, despite being a few sizes too big on some and second hand. I wasn't sure I would ever hear from them but then one day I got a phone call from Govinda and a few weeks after our first encounter on a sunday afternoon I became part of their little world for a few hours.
They live on The Lower East Side with their parents and one sister, and are as close as any brothers can be. They were open to my curious questions but private at the same time. I think they enjoyed having their photographs taken despite it being a fairly cold New York day. There was such a playfulness around them and I constantly felt like they could create a film scenario without any effort. Their similar looks, especially when they all wear their suits, makes one think they are one and the same, but I learned in those hours they each had their own strong personality and their own individual voice and opinions. Some were more vocal than others but they all felt very present, like I had their undivided attention and they mine.
They have been called vampires, mafia kids, killers, drug dealers and worse. It makes a few of them laugh. I see it fires some of them up. Walking the streets with them, you can feel the stares and you can understand how united they stand to hide from a world responding negatively to this image they uphold. However, these brothers are far from any cliche image. They might dress differently and have a unique look but it doesn't take away that Jagadisa, Krsna, Mukunda, Govinda, Naryana and Bhagavan share the same thoughts as other boys their age. They are friendly, polite, sincere, searching, curious and educated kids that talk about wanting to have more friends, to make movies, travel and maybe one day “have a girlfriend” as they say. The 6 brothers have been home schooled their whole life by their mother, something they say they don't really mind - apart from the fact that it does make it harder to meet new people and make friends with kids their own age and (of course) to meet cute girls.
They don't like taking the train unless it's “absolutely necessary”, and find that most things they need are in their hood - although there is a video shop on the Upper East Side they love to go to. Their parents gave them all Hindu names but they are not Indian. The eldest, Bhagavan, works at a yoga studio where he does his practice. And where I ran into him a couple of years after our shoot. We pass a woman who sells clothes on Ludlow street, and they tell me that she sometimes has great stuff that she gives to them. I learn that their unique clothes are a collection of donations from various people in their Lower East Side hood, although sometimes they find a bargain in second hand stores that they can afford. “We can't afford new things but when we find good stuff or are given good stuff we make it work”. They all deeply love and admire films and the history of cinema, and say their look is inspired by films they love. “We aren't trying to be different, we just think it's a classy look and we love it”.
On this lovely sunday afternoon, these shy and kind brothers taught me more about compassion, empathy, family and love than any kids at their age had done before. I feel honored to have had a chance to meet and capture these 6 brothers and to share their images and story with the world.
Govinda called me a few weeks later and told me he was moving to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker. It will be the first time the brothers will be apart for this long, but I am very excited for him. New York 2010