Bronx Parkour: Jose The Amazing (a photo essay)

Photo: Chris Arnade

Chris Arnade is a photographer based in New York City. I've blogged his urban photography before. Check out these fantastic shots of young men in Hunts Point Bronx, doing crazy gravity-defying freestyle jumps. Below: more photos, and the story behind those photos, from Chris.—XJ

Photo: Chris Arnade


Last year I was in a desolate part of Hunts Point, talking to a friend. A group of about ten teenagers came down the street, loud, filled with energy, and seemingly marauding (kicking over cones, jumping on and over stationary cars, etc). I have never had a problem in my twenty years in New York City, but that does not mean I don't stay aware. As they passed, out of the corner of my eye I spotted Jose, do a back flip over a hydrant. Amazed, I yelled out to him. He and his friends, who were also warily eyeing me and my friend, thinking we were cops, were planning to run away, but his friend Henry had a sprained ankle, so they stood their ground.

Since then I have come to grow very fond of Jose and his friends, and have done two proper photo shoots. Big fans of Parkour, Hip-hop, and Anime, they are fighting against an area where the pressures of poverty, drugs, and limited opportunity weigh heavily.

Photo: Chris Arnade

For me it's another lesson in expectations. All of my accumulated baggage from popular culture signaled for me to get away from these kids and their bad intentions, all theirs told them to get away from the cop who would treat them unfairly. Neither of us did that, and because of that I certainly have learned a bit more about the Bronx.

Groups of teenagers have thrown rocks at me from a distance (I just spread my arms and say "Give me your best shot, you arm aint that good." So far that's worked). I understand what the combination of boredom, energy, and hormones can do. Hell, I threw rocks at things when I was that age.

Chris Arnade, 2012.

Photo: Chris Arnade

More from Hunts Point here: Hunts Point
More of Jose here: Jose the amazing

Photo: Chris Arnade


    1. That would be the late falling bear.  He was hit by a car about a week later.

          1. The question is: Have bears always been falling in Colorado or are we only now aware of it because of twitter.

            Or, as DeMarko put it this morning: f a bear falls from a tree in the woods and no one is there to instagram it, did it really happen?

  1. I find photos of horrific scrapes and fractures to be disproportionately absent in essays such as these.

    1. They aren’t necessary. Appreciating these requires the knowledge of what they imply.

      If I had seen parkour 30 years ago, I’d have been all about it.  I was born too soon… I didn’t even get my first pair of heelies until I was in my mid 40s.

  2. ahem, as a native New Yorker who lives within walking distance of THE Bronx, slight cultural typo in the descrip on Boing Boing, it would more appropriatley be Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, or something like that. THE Bronx, not Bronx. Sure, we don’t say THE manhattan or THE Queens  or THE Brooklyn… sheesh I feel like I’m missing something, huh must not be that important … anyways, for some reason it’s The Bronx, baby!

  3. Jose occasionally comes to the teen circus class at The Point Community Development Center offered by Cirque du Monde, which is a social outreach project of Cirque du Soleil. He already had mad skills when he arrived and gets better every week. He is an incredible young man–friendly, funny, patient, and definitely Amazing!

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