A few months ago, Chris Capuozzo was admiring his freshly scrawled graffiti on the walls of the Schlobohm Houses in Yonkers, remembering the nighttime raids he and his friends made in the 1980s on the NYC Transit Yards to tag subway trains. This time, there were no police to look out for since the work was totally legal, which in some ways only made him more nervous.
Capuozzo, a graphic designer, had been hired by the Emmy-winning art director Adam Scher to paint graffiti on the set of Show Me a Hero, the HBO six-part miniseries written by David Simon (The Wire, Treme) and directed by Paul Haggis, based on the 1999 book of the same name by Lisa Belkin. A former graffiti artist from Staten Island, Capuozzo is married to the photographer Denise Capuozzo, a Yonkers native. After hiring Capuozzo, Scher learned that Denise had a horde of photographs of the area in the late ‘80s, when the events in the series took place, which became invaluable for the show’s clothing and set designers in attempting to replicate the era.
At the time, Denise Capuozzo’s motivation wasn’t to document the turmoil in the region, but simply to celebrate the reality of everyday life in Yonkers. Her images included a portrait series of high-school students, as well as street shots of residents going about their lives. Working with the spontaneity of a journalist, she captured the styles and fashions of the time. And several decades later, Scher and his team of designers pored over the archive while attempting to recreate the look and feel of 1980s Yonkers: Achieving verisimilitude was essential to the show’s creators.
Show Me a Hero documents the effort to desegregate public housing in Yonkers during the late ‘80s, when a federal judge ordered Mayor Nick Wasicsko to build new low-income townhouses in primarily middle-class neighborhoods, rather than perpetuate further inequality by placing them in areas already blighted by poverty.