When I created the portraits in "Bellefonte Kids, 1970" more than 50 years ago, I wasn't a great deal older than my subjects.
I had first visited Bellefonte in 1967, as a Penn State freshman, when I joined the ranks of young people who decided to "Get Clean for Gene" and campaign door-to-door for anti-Vietnam War candidate Eugene McCarthy. I remember being stunned by what seemed an economic gulf between affluent State College, home of Penn State, and Bellefonte, just 11 miles away.
Three years later, having enrolled in a darkroom class, I returned and made these portraits. At the time, I printed just three. But I always carried a clear memory of the frames I had captured, and in 2018, when I began scanning and printing my old negatives, I knew which I wanted to print first: my Bellefonte pictures.
Bellefonte–at least the neighborhood where I wound up spending time–was a hardscrabble place in 1970. But when I began working with my old images, what struck me most was how well-tended the children are, in contrast to their neglected surroundings. I don't presume to know what these kids' lives were like. But I love their forthright gazes, their self-possession, and the way they present themselves, unabashed, to the camera.
For me, their stances and expressions seem timeless, even as this is a portrait of childhood in a very particular time, place, and circumstance.