You've probably seen memes floating around about The Bronx. I have two personal favorites. The first is Superman being interviewed saying "I fight crime everywhere, except The Bronx, fuck that!" The second is the scene from The Lion King where Mufasa and Simba are talking about everything the light touches is their kingdom, instead Mufasa says to Simba when he asks "what's that shadow area?" Mufasa says, "That's the Bronx, you must never go there unless you're about that life."
The Bronx has lots of culture, Puerto Ricans especially. PUERTO RICANS LOVE TO SAY THEY'RE BORIQUENA. AND I MEAN WHO CAN BLAME THEM?! I'M PROUD TO BE A BORICUA FROM THE BRONX. They love their island but they make due in the Bronx. There's a lot of representation of the immigration from Puerto Rico to the Bronx. My grandma came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico when she was 15 years old. And without her there would be no me.
The Bronx has been having some gentrification issues. They'd like to change the name of the South Bronx, to "the Piano District." I mean, what the fuck are we in the Hunger Games or something? like come on. Don't tell me you wanna change the name as if we're out here playing piano keys on every corner instead of dominoes during the summer.
Young Adults of The Bronx have dreams. Celebrities like Regis Philbin and Billy Joel were raised here. Former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, grew up on Kelly Street, which is a couple blocks away from my house. Fashion Designers Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren were born and raised in the Mosholu Parkway area and look where they are now. Most importantly the one who coined the term "Jenny From The Block," Jennifer Lopez. It honestly gives hope to a young Latina like myself that dreams are possible. I want to be able to share my art.
That's my dude Sam in the blue, he owns the store and never fails to call me sunshine. He was cool to let me take his and his cousins picture. He even let me set up a fake hold up of his store with girls in a bejeweled mask and nerf guns for another project. He's definitely about that life.
St. John's Church was built in my neighborhood in 1899. When people refer to The Bronx, they usually refer to the quote "The Bronx is burning" The Bronx used to be filled with burnt down buildings, rampant crime and empty lots, that children like my mother used as playgrounds. These images are to be seen as an observation of my environment and myself. There are plenty of old buildings that still have the original architecture from when they were built. What's funny about them now is they're used as Planet Fitness, a McDonald's or a liquor store. Too many of the Bronx's historical buildings are being torn down instead of restored to help community revenue. I think neighborhoods need to see these abandoned buildings as stages to create a voice for the community.
I've had the opportunity to make my own set of friends that have reintroduced me to my hometown. As a child I didn't have friends around here and I wasn't able to explore on my own. I've gotten a lot of flack for being a Bronx Native that didn't really look like I belonged in the Bronx. I wanted to create these images not just for myself, but to prove that regardless of where I'm from or where you're from that there's something that could be discovered about our places. This is the place that raised me. I fell in love with the rawness and realness of my neighborhood and the people around here. This place isn't perfect but I wanted to show that it isn't inferior.
Under it's tough exterior; the Bronx is beautiful.
Actor Al Pacino, who you'd be surprised to know is from The Bronx said an interesting quote when asked by a journalist about his lack of security, he said "I don't need no bodyguard, I'm from the South Bronx. I can handle it!"
I'm extremely proud to be from the South Bronx. I'm tough, I'm loud, I'm Boricua, and I'm here behind my camera to bring it.
Sad news! Morley Safer has died at the age of 84. Karsh photographed him in 1977, and on the Karsh website is an entertaining video from 60 Minutes with Morley Safer of Safer with Karsh, together they recreate the famous Churchill photo. "I'll be Churchill" says Mr Safer.
Rocio De Alba quit booze and took up a camera in order to regain control of her life and mental health. Having suffered from an excruciating irrational fear since childhood, and self-medicating in order to cope, this artist finds photography to be a savior. Independently productive, Rocio's concentration is on the frank portrayal of modern families, relationships and structures.
Kris Graves portrays color; color of light and color of flesh. The boundaries of his contemporaries expand a conversation of self, race and culture. Graves' men are of their parts; their eyes, their noses, their mouths. They are the hair on their heads, their clothes and jewelry, and the glasses resting on their ears. They are not idealized. They are documented. It is this blatant presentation that allows them to be human. It's not a photographic truth as much as it is honesty. Down to the the bone beyond the flesh Graves' photographs are deeper than stigmas or preconceived ideas. They tell a story that regardless of where you come from, each individual's part is universal. As is light. There is an interconnectivity that creates a sense of equality in the work and in its realization.
You can catch a solo exhibition of Graves' work in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, opening on June 4th, 2016 at NorteMaar.
Documentary photographer Adam Reynolds has focused his attention on the Middle East and here brings us a glimpse at the ubiquitous Israeli safety shelter.
"Since its creation in 1948, the State of Israel has felt itself isolated and beset by enemies seeking its destruction. This collective siege mentality is best expressed in the ubiquity of the thousands of bomb shelters found throughout the country. By law all Israelis are required to have access to a bomb shelter and rooms that can be sealed off in case of an unconventional weapons attack. There are over 10,000 public and private bomb shelters found throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories."
I was reminded of stories about London in the Blitz - the London Underground was my parents' bomb shelter. No beauty treatments or couches down there.
Besides his photojournalist qualifications, Adam holds a Masters degree in Islamic and Middle East Studies. Smart!
Wonderful work from a young woman I met at University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Swansea in the UK last year. Generally, the students were working on fairly mature, worldly projects. Rayhannah Ali says of her imagery "My work is about family and using collage to express different feelings of situations and meanings reflecting back to a South Asian culture." Unable to choose, I went with two projects. UNUNDERSTOOD is an embrace of and homage to the graphic imagery of Shirin Neshat while The Disturbance uses mixed media and family photos for a provocative experience.
On a cool Friday night in April, in Brooklyn, myself and a bunch of my photo cohorts gave up another evening for the greater photo cause - this time for ASMP's student reviews. There was a variety of photography to look at, and only 10 minutes to talk about it with each person so I was concerned when two youngsters sat down to be reviewed together. But Jess and Sam, aka the founders of the SAD GURLZ project, lit me up with their refreshing attitude, their confidence, their looks, and their collection of SAD GURLZ who have been invited to submit a statement about a particular reason they haz sad, and have some of their bits and pieces photographed.
"I'm a SAD GURL because my cognitive psych professor said that if aliens do come to visit, they'll kill us." - Haley
It can be tough reviewing students, especially when they are from all different schools and at different levels, with some not seeming to have been given any guidance. I was convinced during my first review that Taylor Swift must have been standing behind me as the young man's eyes wandered incessantly.
"I'm a SAD GURL because I'm such a fangirl at heart but The Beatles and the Beach Boys broke up so I have nothing to take my top off for." - Paulina
"I'm a SAD GURL because I want to go to Med School but I spend all of my time drinking Budweiser and sleeping with NYU frat boys." - Carlie
Jess and Sam seemed far from sad as they showed their book and beamed about their project. They are infectious and besides which, the series is an insight into the minds of today's young women. I have spent much time thinking what I would have said to them.
"I'm a SAD GURL because love doesn't exist. It's not just sunshines and rainbows. It's all fucking heartbreak." Original SAD GURL Jess
"I'm a SAD GURL because at this point, it's easier to be single than deal with fuckboys." Original SAD GURL Sam.
After making two trips to the West Bank twenty years apart, Belgian photographer Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing has collected his photographs into a book, titled "Lueurs d'espoirs / Glimmers of Hope." The book shows de Bellaing's travels through everyday life in both 1995 and 2015.
The book includes an essay by Leila Shahid, Palestine ambassador in France and then Belgium for the last 20 years.
Here is Frédéric's own statement:
"When I present this project, the same question comes back again and again: "Why Palestine?" Of course there is my indignation against oppression but, rightly, some respond to me that the Palestinians are not the only ones suffering. As often in this case, it is the personal journey that makes the difference.
The first intifada broke out in 1987. I was 16 years old. TV screens fed me up me with pictures of teenagers fighting with stones against heavily armed soldiers. I was shocked but the media release their floods of dramatic images all day long drowning indignations in an ocean of bad news.
Two years later when I began high school, I met Mina Shamieh. He was Palestinian and student like me. He was a warm person and his smile was disarming. We quickly became good friends. Until then, the Palestinian issue was but a media abstraction. Through my friendship with Mina, it took human shape.
The media feed us with pictures which are sometimes sensational but generally disconnected from human touch and identification to the Palestinian people has, for too long, take shape through empathy for their suffering.
To overcome this cathodic anesthesia, we must awaken the sympathy and empathy, in other words, we must become human.
With "Glimmers of Hope", I hope to convey the warmth and the desire to live which inhabit the Palestinian people.
To you, Mina, my old friend, with whom I have enjoyed sharing the small pleasures of everyday life."
The last visit I made to AIPAD - in 2008 - was the first and last time I attended. I left that first time and didn't make a photograph for four years.
Upon hitting the Armory floor that year I quickly took note of the many Minor Whites, Aaron Siskinds, and Harry Callahans there were on the floors leaning up against the walls of booths. I risked picking up a framed Minor White in a booth in which I felt particularly invisible. No one seemed to notice the 20-year-old cretin picking up and waving around the framed image. "That's how it's gonna be huh?" I thought to myself.
I came around a corner to a well-established contemporary photography booth; a gallery, which will remain nameless, with a featured image of an artist, who will also remain nameless. The print was bigger than me; I'm six foot four. Shot, framed, and lit with the utmost perfection. The subject of this photo is something one would find at a local zoo. What you can't find at your local zoo is the best photography equipment and the most expensive flashes money can buy, which the photographer clearly used to achieve the photograph. Needless to say the creature's photographic impression was something to behold, every inch an idealized image of absolute perfection. "How could anyone, who doesn't want to make images like this but does want to work in this field, compete with something like this object?" was my bone-crushing thought.
And that's how I left my feelings for photography. For four years.
I didn't know then what I realize now. The Armory's AIPAD is as much an antiques road show as it is the Fine Art Photography world's Comic Con. It's a chance for photo galleries and institutions, and people, from all over the world to gather in New York City. There's some good quick sales to be made and, if you take the time, a few new friends to make as well. With the right intentions and a good pair of eyes, it's not totally impossible to yield some meaningful experiences with the people and large display of very concisely and purposefully curated photos. After all there are some exquisite images.
So this time I decided I wanted to turn the experience around on itself. I spent over seven hours every day this year at AIPAD. I'd like to point out that doing this doesn't make me special - just stupid, crazy, and driven enough. The heroes of AIPAD are the gallerists, assistants, and Armory staff who dedicate their time, energy, and maybe even souls to this convention. I tip my hat to them.
Their passion inspired me to play some part, so I kept a stream of conscious diary during and after everyday.
Opening night is like chasing around after some semblance of cordiality and imagery. It's more social than photographic but the evening is hugely photogenic. Name tags and introductions, stumbling over hors d'oeuvres. It's great to sift through the confusion and endless stream of booze.
"Where on earth do they put all those empty glasses?" I wondered on my way out.
Standardized words flush the halls of the Armory - words like fresh and contemporary. There are things in those silly haphazard bins with far too many zeros. Like the Robert Frank I found for $80,000 with only a simple matting and plastic sleeve for protection.
"You're not going to forget me," someone brightly beams at a gallery owner, "my last name's Art." There are joyous little words of amusement muttered by many different patrons. When you catch one it's like finding a diamond. "You're a craftsman! And I mean that in the best way I can mean that!" Such passion. It's hard not to laugh out loud.
Rest becomes a commodity on the well-placed benches. The tax is worth the spectacle of the company of strangers and friends alike.
By now things seem much more solid. You're even starting to memorize where things are. Close your eyes and you can remember exact locations of your favorite images even though your head does nothing but spin from the sheer volume. There's no more casual strolling and looking; you can actually see the photos on the walls. This is no longer a convention, it's an endurance trial.
[I've written one word here. It's the same word I've written for day four.]
The whole thing becomes too much and I certainly have to admit it may be because of the degree of my visits, but not totally the fault of my obsession. AIPAD is a lot of work! As a casual goer it's great to stroll through and give the time it deserves. Talk to people - there's no reason not to - they're surprisingly friendly, intelligent, and engaging. (Many attendees are actual working professionals; make friends, but don't ask for favors!) Maybe all that is actually not so surprising. After all, we're all at AIPAD for the same reason; we really feel passionately towards photography. Given my first interaction with AIPAD and this recent experience, I've come to realize in many ways that this crazy experience is what you make of it. If you let it put you on your ass it will. It's much more rewarding to make it yours. For me, I gave myself over to it. I'm eager to get back behind my camera.
New Yorker Erica Price gives us a last glimpse at the Streit matzo factory, which recently left Manhattan's Lower East Side for a new home in New Jersey. Streit's kosher food was established in 1916 by Aron Streit, a Jewish immigrant from Austria, and the factory was making matzos at their Rivington Street location since 1925, operating two 75-foot ovens, producing 900 pounds of matzo per hour.