21st of March 2019 - Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As you know (see previous story) we had big plans for this day. It was going to be the actual final chapter, I know I keep saying that but this time for real, of the FXCKRLGN-story. And as you might have figured out by now, I go through the same prep for every single one of these shoots: I watch documentaries, read upon the history, this trip I had even spend a week before-hand in the neighborhood, to observe and to try to ‘understand’ their community as much as I could. For a few months I direct all my energy towards this one story I want to tell. Nothing else matters… A few days before the production, Frank aka my art manager and Dries aka videographer arrived, one day before the arrival Jesse aka my partner in crime for these specific type of shoots. It was going to be the first time that it was not just going to be Jesse and me, we had Dries by our side to capture the whole process, to perhaps shape this into a part of a documentary at one point, Frank was there to help us along the way and just to make sure everything went smoothly... To be really honest, I was sort of nervous for Jesse’s arrival, you know… shooting in an actual city, he hates big cities, to introduce him to Frank and Dries, but most importantly this shoot was going to be completely different; usually we try to distantiate us from people in the background but for this shoot I wanted to be as close as possible, eye-to-eye. So that was going to be a total game-changer for sure, you could say the level of nervosity was concentrated, while being in New York City, imagine that.
And my gut feeling was right, what was supposed to be a prime production ended up in almost losing a friend. After being almost arrested again (watch video) things got heated between Jesse and me. We were battling against so many forces - and unfortunately, against each other. Even though none of our previous trips went without the occasional rumble in the jungle, we always managed to put our pride aside, work through things and put the project first. This trip for some reason, we didn’t manage to do so. Our energy just wouldn’t collide. The very next morning, Jess packed his bags, and flew early back to Bali. So there I was, in an apartment in Williamsburg with Gill & Dries by my side, but without a photographer. To be really honest again, I was crying my heart out. Not only was this project a total disaster, I knew Jesse and me would probably never create together again. After the crying, some coffee and some proper pep-talk from Frank & Dries I reached for my phone and started to look for another photographer. The answer to all the ‘tragedy’: Gary Breckheimer! I knew if there would be one guy up for the job, it would be Gary. Gary Breckheimer = Famous for shooting ‘nudes in the city’, faster than lightning. I called him up. He was in the city, and free and totally stoked so that very next morning we found ourselves in front of the same synagogue in Williamsburg again - shooting a different story but perhaps with an even stronger message.
Before the 21st of March 2019 - Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Walking around in Williamsburg… literally everyone was looking away when I was greeting them (note: at this point I was fully clothed) They were making big bows around me when I would pass them. Although I was prepared and I knew that they were thinking I was secondary (since I’m not part of the Hasidic community, they are the chosen people and their destiny is special, mine is not). They made me feel like I wasn’t human or they weren’t, it was confusing… I had never felt so unwelcome in my life before.
Like I said earlier, doing my research, I red through their commandments and I quote: ‘To love all human beings (Lev. 19:18) (CCA60). *Definitely was not feeling loved. ‘Not to cherish hatred in one's heart (Lev. 19:17) (CCN78)’ *Definitely was feeling hated.
Words from the founder of Hasidic Judaism named Baal Shem Tov: ‘Respect every individuals unique soul, regardless of background, education or experience.’ *What they preach is very far away from what they practice, unfortunately. And exactly this, to me, is what makes their lifestyle so unhealthy, the lack of love and understanding for others. The fact that they close themselves off from the outside or ’secular’ world ‘how they call it’, shows how afraid they are. the lack of freedom and random rules they have for themselves show how incapable they are of making up their own minds. Once again, the brainwashing of mainstream religion never seems to let down…
The community; ’Members only’. “The less they know from the outside world, the better it is” They don’t learn any culture or history, except for theirs, they are not allowed on the internet, they are not allowed to dress differently, no matter who you are, your personal life is held hostage to your religion, as soon as you tend to deviate from the path of the community , you get blocked out. But on the other hand, If you’re poor or in bad health, the community will take good care of you, there’s just a price you have to pay… Of course there’s much more to them but to brutally honest once again, I’m kind of fed up with their whole community right now. So I’m gonna leave this right here, hope the images tell the story. All the images below are part available for sale through Frank Rose Direct link to the online viewing room
The chase - Purim 2019 - 21st of March - Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was pouring rain. The streets were nasty, trash and broken bottles everywhere. This was never going to be a smooth shoot but the wind and wetness definitely didn't make it any easier. Nevertheless, we came this far, we had to push the envelope. So we kept looking for different spots, new angles to approach them, trying out different techniques, some reacted as if they had seen a person rising from the dead, some got aggressive and some just ran away... It was hard to calculate what was going to happen each time. We decided to stay in the uber-car and when we would see a situation that might possibly work, we would jump out and set up the scenario as fast as we could and then get out again as fast we could. The problem: one-way streets + insane amount of traffic + people zigzagging over the streets = getting out fast, mission impossible. The bigger problem: Jesse and I were off rhythm and this whole shoot was just bound to be a total disaster.
After a couple of tries of this last technique, our car was surrounded by Hasidic jews while we were unsurprisingly stuck in traffic. Jesse's window was a tiny bit open and one of them gurgled and spit right in there. They were flipping out and yelling we had to pull over, one of them was pointing at his phone screaming he had the cops on the line and that they were a few cars behind us. Sirens were getting louder, the uber-driver was freaking out. Jesse looked at me the way he had looked at me before, so I knew exactly what he was going to say, I grab all my stuff and get ready to run! Jesse opens his door, as well does Dries, and we all jump out, run for our lives. We kept turning around corners, it honestly felt like we were running in circles when at one point, making another turn around another corner, I look behind me, they now had bundled up and there were about 10 Hasidic jews chasing us , and right in front of me, the sirens, I knew this was it, so I stopped running. They slammed me against the rails, then the cops appeared on the horizon, so I knew I was safe. Safe, soaking wet, high on adrenaline, frustrated, unsatisfied, disappointed... Right after their intervention, we left the neighborhood. What happened after: check out the next story.
*we realized that this real life moment might be the start of something bigger. *selling art to raise funds. *raise funds, to raise awareness in the form of a documentary about the suppression of men and women due to religion all around the globe.
Production: Frank Rose Director of Photography: Dries Vanderaerden