Money Power Respect is Kenneally’s very personal and powerful survey of community life in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It focuses on the complexities of family relationships and how women in this environment can turn to drugs in the belief they will thus empower themselves and improve their social status.
The 100 black and white images – traditional black and white reportage – are accompanied by text from journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, who warns: “This isn’t a street book. These aren’t photographs of the extremes of the ghetto environment observed.” Rather this is an inside look behind the blinds at the daily routines in an ordinary suburb. This book is divided into clear chapters and substories about women like Mari, Tata, Faye and Moya. The supplied biographies are important, but the language of Kenneally’s images has a far greater impact via her precise framing.
The project began with the Velazquez family and Tata’s chapter shows us a life governed by crack. Her story is tragic but the images command respect. We follow her as she buys a dime rock of crack from a disused building, discusses crochet with friends between hits, teaches her young son how to deal correctly and climbs back in through a bedroom window after sleeping in a hallway in order to avoid the child welfare people. The book’s layout permits a lively pace: full page images followed by busy groups of quarter-page images, serving to emphasise the disjointed lives of the people within.
In the same way that Eugene Richards in 1994 communicated through his images the transience and anxieties of a drug-affected society, Kenneally’s essay looks deep into the psyche of a troubled community. With over 10 years spent on this project (Le Blanc calls it “immersion work”), Kenneally has gained unparalleled access, breaking down personal barriers in ways that most editorial assignments can no longer do. Now is an important time to recall the homegrown battles that are still being fought in America’s own backyard.