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Enriquez Nicolas
GETTING CLOSE

A young photographer’s intimate look at the lifestyles of the Latin Kings

By Loubna Mrie

“I was new here and I didn’t even know how to take the subway,” Nicolas Enriquez, a photographer and native of Colombia, tells Quartz. “I googled ‘most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City,’ and everything started from there.”

Shot in Brooklyn and the Bronx in 2014, Enriquez’s project The Bloodline offers a rare look inside the daily lives of members of one of the biggest gangs in the United States: the Latin Kings.

“Smokey and B-rad play in the street, they’ve been friends since they were kids, B-rad was incarcerated for more than one year and will be released in 2 months,” he writes of two of his subjects. “B-Rad’s wife and Smokey had to take care of his kid during this period of time.” His unusual access to the gang members is both empathetic and disturbing—in one image, the camera lens faces directly down the barrel of a newly-acquired gun.

Enriquez Nicolas
“Murder” holds a gun that he bought for $250 in the street. He says he bought it after members of a rival gang stabbed one of his friends in the neck.

Enriquez,  21, spent six months working on this project. He describes the teenage members of the criminal group as having made ”a survival decision.” ”Joining a gang is never an easy decision,” says Enriquez. “But they were damaged and weak, so they agreed to join whoever offered support, help or a hand. It is hard when everyone is looking at you, expecting you to fail and treating you as a criminal before even committing anything wrong.”

Enriquez Nicolas
Gang member Teflon getting ready to start a freestyle session of rap at an apartment in Brooklyn. Music is a big part of the gang life and many gang members follow the steps of different musicians to try to achieve the dream of becoming an influential artist.
Gang member “Looney” yells as he’s looking for rival gang members “Trinitarios” in a Brooklyn subway station.
Graffiti tags of different gangs inside the elevator of a low-income housing structure in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Enriquez Nicolas
The view at night of a low-income housing project in Brooklyn, where many gang members live.
Enriquez Nicolas
Several Latin Kings members enjoying a playful time outside one of their apartment building in Brooklyn.
Left to right: King Looney, King Chucho, King Smokey and King Buckets rest at home after a long day meeting with other gang members, smoking some marijuana and drinking beer.
Enriquez Nicolas
Looking outside the window to see if there is a “man-down” outside the building. “Man-down” is their term for police officers.
Enriquez Nicolas
Gang members and friends mourn the dead of Simbaa, who died after being stabbed 20 times on the chest in Williamsburg.
Enriquez Nicolas
Kirell sleeps at his home in Bushwick, where his uncle “Smokey” also lives. Smokey wants Kirell to join the gang when he grows up.
Enriquez Nicolas
Smokey walks home in Brooklyn.
Enriquez Nicolas
Blask’s hand was cut with a broken bottle during a fight with members of rival gang Trinitarios.
Enriquez Nicolas
Street-level drug dealing is the main source of income of the gang. A large percentage of their transactions come from the homeless and users in the immediate community.