08/06/2014 12:22 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2014

An American Romeo and Juliet

Romeo & Juliet: In Pictures

A third generation New Yorker, Lower East Side gallerist Sasha Wolf has curated an exhibit of photographs loosely illustrating Romeo and Juliet. She says she is direct, honest and straight-forward, but never cynical, and has an innocent belief in true love. These qualities mark the work she has chosen.

The naturalistic, black and white photographs show teenagers close to Romeo and Juliet's ages. Boyish gang members smoke cigarettes on a Brooklyn boardwalk; a teenage couple sits lost in thought on wooden porch chairs on a southern summer afternoon; a pre-teen girl appears at a half-screen door resembling a balcony in Athens, Georgia. In contrast to the high drama of the play, these images are still and quiet, often showing their young subjects pensive, melancholy and vulnerable.

In an interesting choice, Wolf displays several photographs of solitary, sleeping boys and girls, light from nearby windows illuminating their peaceful faces, as if we are the first to discover the star-crossed lovers, resting undisturbed, the morning after their deaths.

The realness, the nearness of these photographs bring the play down to us, connecting its essential moments with small town life, city street life, the turbulent life of the American teenager. "Is love a tender thing? It is too rough," says Romeo. These pictures, by turns rough and tender, translate Shakespeare's iambic pentameter into modern American vernacular.

Romeo & Juliet: In Pictures, Sasha Wolf Gallery, 70 Orchard Street, New York, June 18 - August 10