Commitment to Community-- Rhynna Santos, Michael Young, and the Bronx Documentary Center
You're listening to the beach Taga fee podcast for over forty years being h has been the professional source for photography video audio and more for your favorite gear. News and reviews. Visit us at B H dot com or download the bien h app to your iphone or Android device. Now, here's your host, Alan White's. Greetings, and welcome to the bean h photography podcast the Bronx. It's the only new city borough that starts with the it's also the home of the New York Yankees. Home of hip, hop, the New York botanical gardens and since two thousand eleven the Bronx documentary center, the BBC is a nonprofit gallery and educational space. Founded by photo journalist, Mike Cameron, the BBC is a community oriented cultural center that sponsors exhibit screenings and workshops. Their mission is to share documentary photography film and new nedia with Bronx communities and the cultural community at large our guest today are to Bronx based photographers who coincidental. Gently on members of the Bronx documentary center, Ryan m Santos was born in authority, but Rico, and as a graduate of UCLA and a resident of the Bronx here in New York City missiles, photographs depict, everyday life, geographies emotions and the realities of people who live and work in the Bronx Ryan his photographs have been exhibited in the drid in a number of new city, cultural venues, and recently, she was featured in the New York Times lens blog Santos is the coordinator of the Bronx junior photo league. She's also the curator for the popular Instagram feed. Everyday Bronx her current, and perhaps most personal project has been documenting her relationship with her aging father, Grammy award winning Latin musician race Santos for whom. She has become a caretaker also joining us today is portrait event and street photographer. Michael young Michael's photographs appeared most recently in the corner, a Papa group show at the Bronx documentary center and black documents freedom and exhibit honoring. Renowned photographer. Jamaal Shabazz at the Andrew Freedman home in the Bronx in two thousand seventeen his work has also appeared in almost magazine. Welcome Ryan, welcome. Michael pleasure to have you guys here. Pleasure to be here. All right. Let's start off with Ryan. If we'd made an ask a question here. Tell us a bit about your project. Poppy, Il, maestro maestro is currently actually exhibited at the Bronx music heritage center. And when I was approached by the director, Illinois Martinez. She asked me do you want to you want to have an exhibition, and I wondered what was thinking. Well, maybe I would give it to my group. The Bronx woman's for collective or maybe I will do something else with someone else. But because it was the Bronx music heritage center that was a block away from where my dad grew up. I'm like, I think I'm going to show the work. I've been doing all my dad for the past six years have felt really right until basically. Hashtag by being maestro is my exhibition. My work my love for my father through images. So I chose to be able to exhibit my dad, and because we're always at the BBC the Bronx documentary center, I wanted to try to do something a little bit not just incorporating my documentary work on my dad, but to try to be a little bit more creative to in another way. So I decided to do three parts for this exhibition part one is how I got to know my dad when I was a kid, and that is a father travel as a musician. My parents were divorced when I was three years old k so they were very close in my family was very close it still. But that was challenging getting to know who my father was when he wasn't in the home anymore. And also my father worked a lot through my childhood. And so he was always a. Away on gigs or traveling over writing. I think when knowing a musician once they start working, my father is a not just a saxophone player, but a composer and arranger and when he was ready music. There was nothing else that existed, but that piece of music, so I really grew up being very curious. Also, I was born in Puerto Rico, my parents after they married lived in your fridge, just a fierce. But then they went back to the island. And so I wondered what this he was from New York is a new year Rican. And that was really interesting to me like that whether that mean, I just knew the island. So I really started to get to know my father or a larger piece of whom I father was through these archival photos that I would find in my grandmother. So you mentioned that you approached after six years of working on this project. I'm assuming that this started off as your personal thing that this was not a well, maybe I'm wrong. Did you intend to have this? Go public to be about your father or be about this whole thing about caretaking, which is something we're gonna talk about too. When I started photographing my dad, it really was an encouragement from one type started volunteering at the Bronx documentary center in so many different photographers will come on Friday nights. We had Friday night classes, and they would say if you want to practice, you got a photo, you, you know, you gotta use your camera. You got a photograph every day. But you know, what don't you photograph will you have access to? And I was disastrous. With my dad, I just had come back from Europe. So I I wasn't really sure what was going to do with my life. So I just decided to start photographing him. I had done interviewing with him before. And it was a really positive experience. When I did that got to know him a little bit more. So when I came back from Spain I had lived there for three years, and I just came back. He was very different. Okay. And he was living alone at the time and. I just started to take it upon myself to change things in his house and to help him out. We would also I was going through the process for coming back from Europe and just getting used to the United States again her I felt a little bit like an alien myself. So I wanted up hanging out. And I just saw that he needed some help he needed to help with his he's such a creative person. And so I started helping him organizing his gigs and driving him to his gigs and dealing with people at his gigs. So that's how I started to manage him was he cooperative at the beginning of this idea of you. Documenting him and and looking into creating a series of photos about him and interviews and such anyone who has met my dad, you know, in the industry. They call him the gentlemen, so that was super cool about it. But Tennessee called college at all. What are they in English? They call him the gentlemen who. And and he really is that I mean, he really really is that person he is incredibly kind and gentle guy that I grew up with who was super passionate about music. But I didn't really know that my dad was a famous person growing up. I was just like we're not really rich so famous. No fame here. But as I started growing up in in understanding, my father a little bit more. But really understanding once we moved to the United States into really for the first time BMI, nobody I grew up on a Mile Island, and so very very different coming to the United States. My mom, moved us all to California to San Fernando Valley. And and it was really hard being Puerto Rican in the west. And so our life really centers around music, my mother playing South Asia because it felt like the only place we could really be Puerto Rican was in her house, and so we would play this. There was only one radio station for a few hours on the weekends playing salsa music called mother Barrio and would start my mom would started screaming all the time. Like, oh, that's Hong as you dad. That's your dad's song. And I was like really, you know. Okay. I'm proud, but it didn't really make a connection until once I moved here. When Thais go here and people would stop him on the street and. And it just really hit me like who is really super quiet guy who barely talks to me. He's a super inner introvert in through starting to interview him I stole my sister's camera like her video camera. She's still doesn't know we won't tell anybody. Tell. But I started recording him and through that. I really started to. Not just get to know. But also hone like asking the right questions. I wanted a particular answer like Intel would ask a question differently indifferently connect did it. Absolutely. Did it evolve? I mean, it must evolved over six years. But did it start perhaps, or at least maybe in his is about a conversation about his musical career and his legacy in that? And then it became something different about a relationship between you two and your caretaking situation. Or no is it. Absolutely. I I it really was just about his career and really focusing on his gigs and things like that. But once the care started to increase of something as simple as preparing a meal to then helping him pick out his clothes and things like that. He started to see me differently. I think I I was very flattered that I would have this kind of intense interest in his life. And every story these kids is he has five kids. I'm the youngest girl, but you have to tell you my dad is magnificent storyteller. Super. Interesting and eagle less in. So you really sit in this in a room with him, and he'll will watch TV, and he'll tell me something will come up on TV's going on that ever tell you when I met Dizzy Gillespie, and I'm like, no. Absolutely. And so, but now it's become. It's a joke. All the time. It's like, okay. Well, you know, do you wanna do this gig with me, or do, you know, let's go out of should be great photo shoot opportunity. And I'm like, yeah. It would it would be a great great opportunity, but he's been super easy going. But I've also been very strict with myself about having certain boundaries of things that I'm gonna photograph with my father. I want him to feel comfortable. There was one image. I took that I thought was really awesome of him pushing his Walker, you know, and he's had to now he asked us a Walker, and I thought the pictures great. We went to take him to orcher beach. We walk around in the Bronx. And he asked me to take it down. And that was the first and only time that he's ever done that. And he really didn't want people to to see that. And I really understood like, well, he's a public person. So I was gonna ask you if could because again, imagine even early on when you start to reconnect with your dad, he's putting a lot. Out of his street cred and his pride out there. There's a certain persona that he built up and maintains, but he also had a surrender that to a little bit of Tanta humble himself to start looking at you saying I do need help were acknowledge the fact that you helped me with this and stuff was that easy for him to do. No not. We actually had a conversation today, you know, in this is one of the things that really encouraged me to open up about the caregiving that I do with my dad to try to connect with other people that are going through it that is something that it is incredibly challenging, you know, as an artist I looked at other projects of family members like American families, and I couldn't relate to that type of storytelling, and I didn't really have a project Puerto Rican or Latino project to really use us. You know inspiration. You know, so certain universe. Not to not. Vet thought. But isn't there a kind of a universal meaning to caretaking, and we were talking before the show. I mean, I my mom's ninety five and my wife, and our essentially our primary caretakers, and it's something that is humbling in its own. But it's also something that's very strengthening. Because you realize you get the bigger picture of what this is all about. Is there a big difference? And if so how would you? Point to it. As far as you sing of being a person of color minority in this country. Compared to me bright. I blend in I'm Jewish and everything else. I'm also second generation here. What are the differences? What kind of challenges would you have specifically when to come to say caretaking this things? How would it go? Well, the first thing I would challenge you to think about is. Instead of using the word caretake would use the word care give thank you care giver. I think that also gives you a lot of agency you and your wife instead of taking something, and there's this weird exchanges about really lovingly giving or points taken through. Thank you for me. That helped me, you know, that's important now as it give me give me a different perspective on it. And also that it is a choice we make and one to accept a choice you go through it very differently. So those are the first things, and but then you know, as I'm doing this project. Even before I started going to the Bronx. I commend tree center. I have loved images I have loved taking pictures. I didn't have the language or the knowledge or the expertise before I went to the BBC and the BBC became my elementary high school college grad school, everything in one, and I will always be incredibly grateful for them. Because at that point. I wasn't going to go to grad school for photography again. It didn't even have that understanding that they gave me there and support. But as I've always considered myself. So I love her a photo. So I've always been attached to photography. I've always had a camera of some sort super cheap. The connection. No judgments whatsoever. But, but that's so to me when I look at art, I always look at it, obviously through the lens of a woman of color because of one equipment and everything else. You know that I didn't have access to growing up. So I would see my father always through the lens of someone that had to capture through photos because I've had to capture my whole life through photos like journal and. I couldn't relate to other projects because culturally where I come from. I look at my mother, and my father in a very respectful way. Yeah. There are certain things. He don't let Puerto Rican families of certain things, you don't share in public certain things. You don't talk about in public outside of your own family and photography is about opening that embracing that boundary between participant and viewer until for me. That's what it's really struggled with. So I couldn't never divorce myself from where I was in the subject that I was shooting. So. Has it gotten more difficult with my father? Absolutely because he has aged guy. You know, he's ninety years old. He turned ninety December. Thank God and still incredibly sharp working currently an incredible holder of I can't express of Latin music history. He will read music encyclopedia's like books, and he will tell me he's like well that person that's the wrong caption because that's not that person this this musician and also seeing as a person of color understanding, the lack of means and connections to education and materials, also the low how lead music is really seen as low art until also have that pressure. Like, I really have to document this guy Riley, really try to get you know, the the right information the history because this is not just my history. But this is American history to loud music being so incredibly popular late forties. Fifties. Early sixties, you know, desegregated the dance halls in New York City in the fifties. Eight pool son, his reputation absolutely many others. Many others. And that's the thing. My father has worked with so many different people that people would already. He's awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Then he isn't. So it's been challenging to really walk that line of being a loving daughter. A daughter that also wants to develop her own photography career, regardless of what's happening in my personal life. But then also trying to elevate this person that I feel has been really ignored this incredible creator and giver of talent, you know, within the Puerto Rican Latino community, and then also to really try to pass on this pride about the Bronx too. Because Bronx has also been the cradle of Ladd music within a New York City to so many of the greats lived in the Bronx and met in the Bronx for a reasons just may spill over to something bigger in that sense music and letting music in the city, or when I really I really do hope so I've been very much, you know, because I feel as an older photographer myself. I started later in life and photography not like a lot of people. Start very young or go to in undergrad and grad, I think that I'm super open for this to really off into someone's first long term project. Yeah. Absolutely. I want to ask a bit about you. You talked about the gear or the the cheap camera. Who cares? Right. None of us care about that stuff. But but was there a kind of a process to get over the the worry about the gear, and what you were using and and legitimizing the process because oh, I don't have a good camera or something like that? And then how did that evolve an ICU shooting with Fuji, which is kind of in some ways the right now, the the camera of choice for St. documentary and things like that. So talk a little bit about that process to as you went alone. I think that's a great question. I think that's a great question to really talk about and theme to talk about when it deals with of color, photographers or photographers that you know, two times. I mean that Israel when I would meet all these different photographers, and you know, again being of the BBC so blessed to have these amazing famous people walk through the door every Friday. You're just like, oh my and there will be ten people in the room. But one of the questions always Abe's like about accents. Where did you get your, you know, nothing necessarily about you know, what a court camera, you're using. But how can we create art? If we don't have that ten thousand dollar camera. You know, and it became this personal and political point for me. And it really informed me. As I continued. And this is why I do the Instagram feed on the founder of everyday Bronx and part of the the everyday projects group, and because it is about creating images through your phone. I mean, obviously now things have changed since it's an Instagram started. But I'm such a huge proponent of access. Everyone should be able to express themselves through photography. They choose. So so I don't until when I talk, and I, you know, do talks with kids and things like that or other adults. I always try to bring this up about access for me. It was hard because I did walk in believing. I have to get you know, the top camera. There are some projects. I mean, what look do you wanna have what do you want to say? So it's a real thing. Also bottom line, though, I think that once you wanted to Utah is the camera that is not the critical aspect. It's your is. Like, you know, if you're a photography, and you know, what you do it. You can you could just take a box with all ten. And you can go and within those limitations together. But you have to get wants to get there, which you realize that you don't need that thousand dollars camera. You don't and also got that lack of access makes a difference. Then it really it really does in inform who is actually taking photos now, and who is not into that a good thing to talk about as well, you know, to be able to how can we usher more people of color? So we can tell more well rounded stories and also to me just even not even wanting to be even if you don't want to be a professional photographer again talking about, you know, how if you're poor you don't have the privilege of exercising your creativity. And that is painful, and I think that that is something that we need to talk about as well, I don't teach photography or to try to push everyone into becoming a photojournalist, but it is so much so about giving people the knowledge. And belief that they can express themselves, and I think it's important, especially among a community of color or flips. I'm sorry, Jeff. But the flip side to to this conversation is that in a series like you're doing with your dad or any other kind of intimate thing. You may not want that big camera. You don't want that big loud. Clunker you want something that's going to these more transparent. And it's a great point. Because I actually the reason that the exhibition is called hashtag, and maestro is because I started it on my phone so talk a little bit about like, did you I think Ellen touch on this. Did you ever think you were going to be having this in the New York Times exhibiting, it even was it? Did it start as something just to kind of work through your own system and see where it goes the project, and you mentioned the BBC and how it how it began. But would you think about it? When you first started just I also thought besides just practicing, my photography and documenting this, you know, famous important man, I thought it would be important for our families. You know, I grew up I only had two photos of myself to from Puerto Rico to the United States to me also printed images or big deal because I didn't grow up with any and we were so poor. When we got to the United States. We didn't have a camera for a really long time. So they're huge chunks of my life. That are not documented at all. So I'm obsessed with that. Because I didn't have that in in my life. This is a cruise Bikaner show said they'll make similar. Yeah. It's and it's meaningful, and it does reflect because also I have been privileged enough to travel the world of lived, you know, in Spain. And I love art, I go, you know, love going to museums. And the thing is my experience has always been I barely ever see people that look like me in frames in photographs, you know, and for me, it's like, wait a minute. I want to try to create images that I wanna look at you know, when you find something that is missing. Then do it yourself. I mean, that's how come my series fandom size and the force. I went to Star Wars convention in Anaheim, California, and I decided to photograph plus size women Star Wars fans at the Star Wars convention and. And. For you know. Week. And I felt really weird telling, you know, my friends at the BBC that it was going to do it. But it became one of the most transformative spirit experiences. I have ever had in my entire life. Because I had always hoped looked for in dreamt to see those photos because one they're female fans and to. Plus is people do exist, and we have respect. And so I've been photographing some this is going to be going to go to the stores convention in two weeks. So I'm gonna meet some people that are photographed through three conventions and to really chronicle the difference in how it's a movie, but how this movie and the changes in the movies of inclusion of other people of color has changed fandom in how as people of color. We also change a space because we are there. If you go there about fifty thousand people in it people in the world, unlike what you would see in some of the phantom world with just it's just, you know, looks like white men like that's not really true. Well, that's a great point. They wanted to get back to maybe two questions regarding the puppy almost. But. You said that he has to take out a photo. Was there a decision that you had to make her which is a no brainer. It's absolutely no brainer. By the end of the day. You know, I at it myself even before I photograph I did heavily. I think that now. Since the exhibition of gotten such positive reaction from the images that I'm showing a lot of other photos, again still trying to be very respectful to my father in his wishes. But no, it wasn't an it was a no brainer that I would remove that image that he didn't feel comfortable with is a photograph that I saw of him with a Walker isn't there or my mistaken the? No, I have not in the show. Not in the in the New York Times article perhaps. Yes at the Senate and a cemetery. That's the only, but he was over here. He was okay with that. I think that he. I think he's had to relent to a little bit. Favorite newspaper. His his parents. So that's right. It was a great photograph a lot of very public. A lot of very public. But we I I also wanted just go back to one thing you talking about, you know, in the Bronx, people do not have the means a creed. Having the time to be creative is a luxury. And then having the tools is something that is not easy to get a hold of and I referred to this so many times, but one of my teachers in high school sits something they'll never forget. And it was about creativity, and we will give an assignment, and there were all kinds of things that has to do this has to do that. And then all these parameters, and Ben was bitching and moaning about it. And he sits something that will never leave me. He goes, you have to understand something I'm giving you these limitations because you need a starting point. Because once you know, what you cannot do everything else is possible you start with your limitations. That's your starting point. So if all you have is this twenty dollars camera and a twelve exposure roll of film, then that's your starting point you go out, and you take twelve damn good pictures to the best of your ability at that point in time. Absolutely. I mean, it's a question. Get axed quite often in terms of gear. Like, what do you use? How do you take the images that you take? I think I started out like with a pen Tech's. But the thing was I had to come full circle. I got that camera. I shot with it. I love the images that it produce. And it challenged me in terms of its limitations when I didn't know its limitations, and it forced me just to be able to use the the equipment that I had I had a fifty millimeter lens. And I think I had a kit lens eighteen to fifty five kit lens, and yeah, I just kind of took off with that camera for me. I started shooting. I my wife got me a one day workshop to learn about manual photography. And I got after that. I think things just like the whole world has changed to me. And I started getting I started wanting to get the light on the flash to pop up flash. I wanted to light off the camera, and I started moving that light around. And man, I can't even tell you what what happened in terms. It was it was really transformative from my life in terms of just being able to to to take this camera and just create and create these different type of mood and just like sculpt light. And the beginning. It was it was difficult to to to to learn. But I I used you to and I I was on flicker. I was like one of the earlier people on flicker, this is before Instagram and. Again. It was always a thing where I was finally able to upgrade and get a cannon five d Mark three like, I think the year two that it came out. But the crazy thing was after I started shooting with the Ken, I love the images love shoot and being able to shoot full frame, and it and it gives a different look and feel that he didn't make you more creative. No, it didn't make you a better for right? Never makes you a better, photographers, right? If you can't take decent images, even with a cell phone, then you know, it really comes down to your creativity. Your I and the thing that I love about photography that I carry with me is I don't have to be in competition with anyone but myself, everyone has such a unique perspective envision that. It can't be reproduced. Ten people can be in the same room taken ten different pictures of the of the same subject, but it always comes out different. So it always it it never ceases to amaze me, and that's kind of. What I use? When I talked to people about not getting hung up on gear. I started out a little hung up. It wasn't. I think until I upgraded and got the got the camera that I wanted and got the lenses. I look at the camera body is really the, you know, the camera each camera with its with its limitations causes you to think differently and approach your approach your subject differently. So one of the things that happens to me is like if if today, I'm just going to be using my phone or today, I'm just going to be using my Rico, my mind is like focused on on its plus an it's minuses, and I'm going to push it in its parameters within the parameters, and it's always trying to shoot within those parameters with whatever gear I have helps me not to like obsess over getting five d Mark four which I'd like to get and I'd like to get the food g g x I'd love to shoot medium format, but I'm actually shooting with a role. As well through the BBC, and I'm shooting film. And I'm shooting one twenty film and shooting medium format and my God. I love it. I love it so much. I love the aesthetic of it. And I'm hoping at some point to incorporate that into like, my street fashion going forward and just being able to have that tactile feeling where you taking the image year developing it, and you you're in the dark room, and you and the image appears in in the chemicals, and it's just such an amazing thing. Processor. You were you know, I found I came to know you through the street photography, mostly the black and white stuff. You got all kinds of work out there. And then scape and the color were win. Let's say you wake up on a Tuesday. I mean, how does it? Color eighty. So okay. So initially my inspiration. I have like so I have like an encyclopedia of inspiration. So it begins. So it begins with my aunt who was the family documentary. We all right. We always have that member. Jerry my house. Okay. I'm to tell is really. When we were kids we couldn't pronounce Ellen. So we we came on and it kinda stuck and it's never chain. Great. So tell us to take all the pictures and in the square frame, she used to put all of the captions and the formation, and it filled the albums, and I remember has a kid always loving. You know that I could always see the milestones in our and our family history in those albums, and she even created albums for each one of us. She was really really good at documenting things. You think we're going to be passing drives down two grandkids. That's how that's how it's looking. And it's scary because I don't have any kids. Get with crack those things. Crash on topic. But yet, but but she was really amazing with that. And so it inspired me in in in my early twenties. Just you know to have a point shoot the document as many things as I could usually was just a milestones. Or if we travel, you know, the basic snapshots that I that I that's what I referred him to as being like just snapshots and family memories. But it wasn't until later on that. I think around the time I was dating my wife, her family, her her mother's brother worked at Pantex and gave them a thirty five millimeter film camera, and I'd always loved the movie cinema. It was like a big thing for me. I was a performing arts major in high school with hopes and aspirations of acting. I did some off bro and some extra work phone right now. You go back in. Right. But yeah. So although back back then I used to like a lot of like night of the hunter. I like that black and white a lot of nor some of the forties movies. So those things kind of stuck with me, and they stayed in my head, and when I finally started shooting and started deciding that I wanted to do like St. street photography me was like a crazy Evelyn as I started just taking pictures of street signs. And then I was living in the Bronx. When I when I really started getting serious about shooting, and the graffiti I always loved since I was a kid I used to I miss seeing it on the trains, but you know, now, you just see it on walls and on murals. And so I used to go around and photograph that and then I started thinking like, well, it would be I think it would be a little more interesting if I had something in in the frame, some kind of human element. So I started doing that. And it started just to evolve from color, the signs the graphic the textures all of those different things started. It started. Involving and I started messing around with filters. If I shot with my phone, or if I'm whatever I was shooting with the Pentagon, would I put it through silver pro. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I saw all these different presets and it with it. You know, it just tripped me out. How different things looked when you took the color wing when you remove color glass, he jump here because it sounds kinda similar, you know, in terms of starting in the street, and what you see around graffiti signs whatnot. How was it? When you head to when you did start to incorporate people was it tricky was it hard. And maybe you can talk about some of your techniques. I mean, do do you speak with people when you shoot them tend to shoot on on the sly? Probably live with both. But you know, that wasn't it's hard for people to to make that break certain people strangers. Of course, it's actually doesn't another question that I get often. Like, do you approach people, how do you deal with the human element? And I think any volved just like it did with the signs and the graphic. You know, I started putting incorporating people into it. And then I would I would actually go on you to look at like Eric him where I would look at trying to think of you know, the names are starting to allude me at the moment. But I would look at like, Gary Gary winner grading, and and I would look at. Brisson, you know, I would look at all of these different people's work. And I would try to see if there was a way that I could incorporate people without being seen. I wanted to be as not present as possible. But then it would be someone with such a mate amazing. Look that I have to ask them for photo. So just like the question you acts like like what's it going to be Tuesday? You're gonna do landscaper you can do portrait. So what are you gonna do man? It's like wherever my takes me. And it's really more than my. I it's wherever the white takes. You know, one of the reasons I love Mike's work so much. I've met him. We were both started out his volunteers than Bronx documentary center. One just meeting other Bronx sides that love to photograph the Bronx because you when you're doing it. I mean as a photography or you're out alone. You know, you're by yourself. And so, of course, you're like, well, maybe, you know, I'm the only person taking photos of of the Bronx to be in a room full of people that are interested in the Bronx as well. And or that photography was life changing for me. I just love is. View of the Bronx. I think you can really see even though he wasn't born in the Bronx. Yeah. But but there since that you have for the Bronx, and you can see through through your images. Also, he's an incredibly humble guy. And I think he is such an fantastic talent. And you can you're you know, you are. You are so diverse with what you do with with your photography. But I will the feeling is mutual. I love looking at your and I love it. Featured on everyday Bronx a lot. A little bit about the Claremont village project. Okay. So the Clermont documentary project explores diverse lives and stories of the residents of Claremont village, which is a New York housing authority public housing development. Located in more Sania section of South Bronx. So through you know, photographs oral history, film and multimedia Reina myself. A group of other photographers going to be exploring a range of political and economic issues such as lead contamination food security access to healthcare infrastructure and policing. We also will follow the lives of everyday families collect oral histories from the houses of the oldest residents and chronicle the west African community. That's their first year of the project was from twenty seventeen to twenty eighteen it was photographed by the Bronx photo league and their work resulted in the festival that you. Which was claiming eight it. Yeah. It was a two day outdoor photography festival that was that happened at Claremont village in the project second year, there are myself, and Reina and ten other photographers what we hope to do is bring a wide range of experience to storytelling there. Yeah. So that's pretty much what we hope to do. We hope to explore all these different topics have a project that I'm working on call generations because of my personal experience growing up in a project and the thing with the project is it's had a negative stigma attached to it doesn't matter what borough or what state a project development housing project is in generally has a negative connotation to it. And so growing up there. I I saw the humanity of everyone who lived there. But I know that when I was young I. Kind of wanted to get out of the projects. I remember around the time that I turned nineteen or twenty I got married. So I could get out get I needed. It wanted to get out get out of my mom's house. It's like how do I say this that idea of wanting to get out? It's kind of like baked into to growing up there. I mean, it could be it could be of course. I mean, everybody's different. I get that. But it seems to be so that's part and parcel of it. And that needs to change. Right. I mean, exactly. And so one of the things with my with my project it explores. The the way people see or perceived who live in housing projects. It's not just doing it. I'm doing it for for the people who are there who need to be highlighted even today. I had an interview with a woman who is just amazing with the amount of work that she's done has an educator. She lives there. She's taking care of her family there. And there are so many gems that live in the environment. Like, we all have so much to contribute to humanity. But sometimes we are separated by socio economic issues different different things class class structure, the color of our skin, and we add so much value to each other. If we could just remove those things, however, you know, we live in this world. And what we try to do is we try to shine a light on people who who really need to be highlighted. Lighted in terms of what they've contributed wanted to this question. We go forward with your father's project with popular. I is it an over. And if it is how did you realize it was over and the second half of this question is did it ultimately end up becoming kind of a self portrait? So the work will continue to go on photograph. My dad all the times. But now because I've been able to do the exhibition. I think I am beginning to take photos that I wasn't taking before. It's moving more from documentation documentary photography to trying to really play and Bs artistic as possible. It's allowed me to really. Fit into this role of caregiver. Because some of the images that are in the show for me are very difficult to look at. And they just show me not just a state of, you know, my dad who's older and everything that means to a daughter who will always desperately wanted to know this person who admires persons are nothing like having a father that you admire. It is such a gift for a child to have that. And I feel so blessed of had that my whole life. But then also. To look at him into look at the processes. A photographer like to really embrace that. And it's been a long journey to really call myself that into express myself in that kind of of way. And Lastly, I would love for this conversation to go on when it comes to other caregivers because it is an incredibly difficult position to be in. And I want to be able to if I can inspire someone to pick up a camera to look at a loved one or another person to want to understand to see you know, how important it is to look the looking it makes you a stronger person on that note, we're going to take a short break and come back with more with my stay tuned. We hope you're enjoying this edition of the H photography podcast. Send us a tweet at B H photo video Pash tag h photo podcast. Okay. We are back. John. You had a couple of questions. Why don't you jump right? Well, thank you Ellen mentioned at the beginning the show. The the Bronx documentary center was started by Michael Kamber in two thousand eleven there's this beautiful house that serves as a gallery and workshop space and offices as well. But it in my experience, it's the doors are open. It's a it's a unity centre people can just come in. Now are you guys within walking distance? Do you guys kind of find this as part of your day to day life, and and talk about your experiences there and how you came to be part of it? Now, you you're on staff to some degree right staffs? Yeah. T- jobs there now come, but when I first found out about the BBC was my first exhibition in New York City, someone brought up the BBC, and I had never heard of it. I looked at that night wrote Mike the next day, and he said come on Friday, which was the following day on Friday. This is two thousand and thirteen. Okay. Fall two thousand thirteen and been there ever ever since. But for me, I live about maybe twelve thirty minutes driving from the Bronx documentary center, and I can't express to you the privilege of having an art place about photography where you live. I've never experienced that in the Bronx before I mean, obviously, we have the Bronx museum in other art spaces, but something specifically for photography. And when I walked up it was beautiful building. And has he's glass walls story building from them. Preservation. Yeah. Absolutely. And Tom, I think is used to be many many things a Dutch bar or really Leany ovoid than I do. Andy store it was abandoned before my God. It is a blockbuster video. Impressive just to have again in the in. This is in the south the real south wrong, actually in the real South Bronx and into just walking up. It was just really taken by the fact of it being such a beautiful place. And sadly, you don't see that type of investment from people from the outside of the Bronx to make in the borough. So I felt from jump that this was a special place, but then walking in and talking to other photographers finding out that there. Other Bronx photographers, I was shocked because again photography is such a solitary thing and. But it is so important to have a space where you live. I always have to get on the six to go and see anything about photography or most or other art forms. And so, you know, I never lived up privilege that I'm gonna get in my car, and I'm gonna drive, you know, twelve minutes, and I'm gonna be there that to me, and it sounds like nothing, but it really changed my life because at allowed me to actually be a huge part of this place. And it's in a sense. It's yours. I mean, you you ownership blue, right? Right. And then that makes a difference. So my experience is similar in the same year. Ryan I came to to BBC at twenty thirteen my. But my experience was okay. I've moved from SoundView section of the Bronx over to the Melrose section of the Bronx. And this is where I'm starting to develop my love, it's harder. Fi. You know? I lost a friend whose wife sold me is is camera quip -ment. And I my wife gets me this manual workshop. And now I am like on a mission. I'm working twenty five years in finance and suddenly the only thing and I hated it. I hated every day of being stuck in a cubicle. And the only thing that seemed to really speak to me. And and really like lift my spirit was was taking taking images. So my wife who was a huge inspiration. In my portrait photography because she she was the person that I that I really started photographing her and my daughter, she became my muse and still is she was walking through the area and she saw the BBC. Now, she knew that since I was starting to like really start putting a portfolio together. Like, well, maybe this is a spot Mike that you could go to maybe should talk to them about maybe doing like having a show there because she didn't know what it was and I stopped over, and I spoke with Mike, and you know, he told me. Yeah. Send me a couple of shots and come to our Friday night class. And I was like it's not really a gallery space like that, Honey. But you know, it's it it seems like a really cool environment to hang out, and they'll be other photographers there. They they talk about that they have this class on Friday, and they critique your work, and so I stopped in. And that was kind of it for me, you know, I would go on the Friday nights and. And be so inspired by not just the amazing photographers that I met that that shot in the Bronx. But also the different talents that they would bring in to speak with us and kind of educate us, and I I knew something I knew something special was going on his every time I sat there and they put images up on the projector. There would be like moans and sighs coming out of me that I that. I wasn't aware that it was making because of the immigrant. Imaging. It was so incredibly inspiring and encouraging to me to what I was doing. And I just wanted to be a part of it. Anyway, I could so I volunteered a couple of times for for a few events. And and now I'm a part of the Clermont fellowship has this OC change to work a little bit. Have you seen changed my life? My very first exhibition ever was that the BBC Bronx Bronx and Reina was in that show. And how many of us like twenty of us where I work was was exhibited in it had a really great reception. And for me, it was like really amazing because it was how did I end up here this end up happening, and the and the, and I know that since the twenty thirteen like, the the reputation of that places only grown with everything that's that's been going on there and all the work that they do in the community, especially with the work that they do. Doing with children, exposing them, especially especially in underserved area. They're exposing them to the arts, exposing photography, they're broadening their horizons and giving them other opportunities, and I love just the hands on a choice that the BBC takes. And how they teach the kids the essentials. They teach them film photography. You know, they they take it back to the core. Yeah. Mike is talking about the after school educational program. The Bronx community called the Bronx junior photo league. And and you know, and it's expanded now to we have sixty students and one of my jobs. There is that I'm the college counselor college success for the Bronx Jenner photo league. And I help and account SEL seniors juniors and the other the rest of the kids to talk about college. Also, you know, we talk about the application process, you know, getting into college and succeeding in in graduation. And I think the that type of that is an example that college success is an example of how. Thoughtful. The Bronx humidity really is in about the success of people and this happens to be for young people. We also being involved with the Bronx photo league, which is the adult program orbiting a little break right now. But once we're able to to get going again on it. It's it changed. The lives of, you know, the people that are now my friends that I've been able to be featured in the New York Times being able to meet other photographers in to really just give an opportunity one education into you know, support and help to be able to move forward. When in a career of photo journalism and then evolving also into the Bronx senior photo league into my second job the Bronx community center, which is I teach older adult digital photography into. We just expanded the program. Really weeks ago into two other centers. So now, we're at three senators, and then so I've been able to really literally see the different age groups from teenagers to adults to older adults in what I have seen similar, you know, in all these groups as this desire to learn and to grow and evolve, and if you really do quality work quality educational were you will get that back. And that's what I love about the BBC the BBC also runs, you know, it's more. It's a group of people because of the incredibly dedicated staff people are attracted to go there because they themselves have very similar philosophies about community about work and also about art. And so I love that about the Bronx commend center. But I definitely I started as just a volunteer. And now, do you get the connection between everything you just said and our? Original conversation when it came to your project about your father. It's all about caregiving, everything you're talking about here is about giving. What you get when you give. Yes. Yes. But you talk more about giving and taking and getting and this is why I really wanted to develop my photography career in the Bronx with other people of color. I was looking up to go to UCLA for undergraduate studies and again being a minority there too. And I just didn't want because this was now my choice, I could do whatever I want. But now I wanted to really try, you know, my hand photography. But I wanted to Pacific was a choice that I wanted to develop this our form a surrounded by other people of color, you know, and for them to be my subject as well. And it is and this group of people at the BBC want to give I mean, this is it's an incredibly challenging job. You know, you are working all the time is not just, you know, dealing with educational program. But also, you know, the ongoing exhibitions documentaries talks book, launches, you know, the, you know, what commu. Unity. You know, we have the the the block party the block party the first Latina photo festival in New York City, rents going to be an annual thing. And just also being the forefront of really thinking how can we do gallery work differently? And we have a mazing people that do that someone who wants to join his their membership with a small dues. No, it's great that you that you brought that up. We do have memberships for you know, to be able we everything is free for Bronx residents. But if you're don't happen to live in the Bronx, there are small fees. Look enough to live in the veteran. Different different events that we do have into the membership gives you a lot of access and also there's a lot of swag and gear that goes. Outside of some of the things that we have that run on a weekly basis. We also have special workshops, they give a lot of access to where someone who was going maybe going to p they would have to like pay for pay a large sums of money for the access that the BBC provides mostly for free. And if not an if it's not completely free. It's at a very discounted rate. I mean to have that to to weaken but workshop for the price that that it was I mean, it's that's good. It was it was incredible. But then if people are interested, we also really desperately need volunteers. That's another way to really get involved and to be able to really give back and also just being around other photographers. I think that the elevator work. It's it's always been elevation to me to to be able to get feedback and to be able to sit and see other people's work and and just being SP. Fired by that. And and also be an inspiration to other people and to be a mentor to other people to be able to talk to other people about sh- sharing philosophies and techniques on on how we achieve certain things going back to to the question that you s you know, what the, you know, the difference, you know, about the caregiving in. This is exactly why the Bronx community center being in the Bronx elevated, a makes it unique because it is around people that have grown up with that that and there's a level of appreciation. And then also understanding a deep understanding of really needing to pass that on because the cycle needs to continue and hopefully be able to really usher younger people in older adults into creating there's an artist inside of you to have the time for now. But you know, real quickly is is the part of the mission of the BBC to document the Bronx, necessarily or are there photographers there who are working in project. That have nothing to do with the Bronx. They're just using it as kind of their base. No, absolutely. No. We have a photographers covering, you know, different. You know, things that are having different countries, different states, Manhattan. You know? Down. But I think it's so we have photographers that are working on a lot of different things not just in the Bronx. But there is there is a need it specifically in the South Bronx to fill a need more people that without a place that wouldn't have that level of access. I took last year. My Bronx senior photo league class to the met which is a museum that people from all over the world. Come in. See it's an icon to New York City never been there. All of them ever all to the and in an also too large. I opening thing about what our institutions really doing to outreach to other New Yorkers. You know, what type of in because some of these institutions are incredibly expensive to get into who gets to look at art who gets to appreciate art who gets to be surrounded by that beauty. And so it was a big deal for us to go. And I told him this is a political thing we're going we're going to this lace because this place you belong here. And you're going to change that place just by being there and telling that to older adults they were on fire and they loved it. They loved it. Even the ones that had a difficult time getting around moving, you know, having physical limitations. If part of the goal is to have the stories of the Bronx told just think in ten years or fifteen years when the the first generation of kids that started or came through the BBC are out there telling their own stories, you know, just going to grow. It's going to be something that's going to be something to see. I mean, it's really important. Also, as you know with kids adults, I am a direct benefit from the education as it made me feel. Differently. It gave me, you know, a beginning to a career that down didn't think was possible to older adults in changing them. Have you know, older adults have changed their whole weekly schedule just to be in my class because when you teach someone to think critically into look at themselves with pride it just trickles and filters into everything else. So I think it is important. They don't have to be professional photographers, but they'll look at the world differently in themselves in that world his name came up earlier Jamila buzz. So and I heard you say it was a mentor. I know for you. So can you just talk a little bit about the? His influence the role played the staticy has now in in in New York City, photographers and anything. I I don't know you wanna go. I would love to go. I all right. I there no words that I have that could describe the power and influence and support of this man, I love social media because I actually got a hold of him on his website. And I wrote I want to get into photography. This is before I went to the Bronx documentary center. I don't know how to do it. And actually, I met him at his favorite printer was printing some images, and we sat you know, in this place, and he spoke to me for two and a half hours. And he was so kind as the first real photographer that ever met. I remember as a teenager going to museum going to and so the Barrio, and I saw his work, and I had never in my life had seen a photo book with people that look like me before and. You know and with a Puerto Rican flag, and it shook me I couldn't afford the books couldn't buy it. But I remember that. And I remember calling my best friend is I just saw this book. And I just can't believe it. I've never seen this work before overseeing these images in change me and to be sitting in a room with him. And and he encouraged me to to apply for this for this contest. In was able I was chosen, and I was chosen with a photo that I took on the way to go. See him. That's crazy. Respect I apply. Just because of course, I had to and this the first time that was ever featured in gallery, and it was an image that I took and on my phone on my cell phone. So. So I don't even know where to start with Jamal. He's been he's been a mentor to me, he's been a friend. He's been he's an iconic photographer, but he's such a gentle and humble his such a gentle and humble spirit. Now, my first meeting was my first actual meeting with Jamal was we were I was told by Laura James, she kinda put that show together. At the Andrew Freeman for black documents that we were we were in the show, which emot- Baz. And you know, I was like oh my gosh. I seen this man's work. This man's work is incredible. As a matter of fact, some of my street fashion is modeled after Scott showman, the satori A-List, Bill Cunningham and Jamaal Shabazz. So I was blown away when I was told I was going to be in a show alongside the work of Jamaal Shabazz. He reached out to me on social media started commenting on my work. I was I was blown away. I mean, I could not believe it. And and he had been such a I I don't know. I don't know the worse to say besides mentor, and he's been such an encouragement to me for someone who's an amazing talent like that to be that humble and be and be that giving of himself. It's just extrordinary, and he's just been again like such an influence in terms of what I'm doing now. And how I'm sure other than his influence is only growing I mean, and it's really important to to really see, you know, the history that covered that no one else. Epsilon historically his worth incredibly important. You know, and how people just his connection with his subject. Yes. -ticipant and the images, you could just see, you know, for someone to look at you to look at the camera, and that kind of way there had to be this. Incredible special connection. And so for him working the about with, you know, the current photographers and future photographers and be that giving but just his work in general. I think for him to see beauty when other people weren't team beauty their genius exactly as he took. He he he made an entire generation. Be looked at or be seen in such beautiful way in such a respectful way. And in such a proud way at at a time, like the time before crack, which is one of his books, and and and just just the style and the manner in which he presented his work and how he presented people. And it's like the thing that people don't know is when you look at Jemil's images, you don't know you can put a story together, you can get an emotional connection. Because of the way he makes his connection with his subject. But there's so many stories I actually had to privilege of going out to his house and sitting down and talking again, we we talk for hours about his process about his work in about even the things that haven't even been seen yet that that he's dead. He has right now that he's working on. He was on a part of a series did with through being aged with the photographer. Cory writes metaphor because. Portrait is on the site right now. And what is tiger fy? And we ask them we talked a little bit and his answer was visual medicine, right? And yes, but the best answer devil and echo everything. He said, I don't know too. Well, but everything that was said him or for the viewer. Don't say no Jamal was say that it would be for both. Because there's there's years of of different things that was going on with him emotionally that he pours out into tiger Affi, and some of the people that he's photographed will come back to him years later saying oh my gosh. That's the only picture of my father that I've ever seen. You know, when you can do that with this medium and be able to you know, my hope at some point is to be able to make those types of connections. And it's just great to be around a mentor like him because he's he's kind of like he's he has me thinking in so many different ways in terms of how I can take a different approach to how I do what I do. And and, you know, I'm forever grateful for knowing him and testing theories about I'm from Brooklyn. And I spent my first years in the no strain. How? Housing projects avenue the Knapp street, and then my father got enough raise able to move into the co ops three blocks away. We slow went to the same schools had the same friends and everything else Brooklyn has a reputation and personality as does the Bronx. No two ways about it. They're they're they're one in the same in many, many ways, how is the Bronx different from Brooklyn and other urban areas comparable to that. And there are other places that we could easily just peel back a few lays and drop it back down. And it's the bronze, but how does it differ house special while the Bronx is incredibly special for, you know, some of the things that you had mentioned earlier when you started the the podcast. I mean, Bronx is the birthplace of hip hop. And everywhere that I have traveled to everyone's listening to hip hop today. Still. So this is, you know, this American music form that was create. Fid here out of nothing by Puerto Ricans and African Americans and we don't get everybody. Let's talk about hip hop. But the South Bronx doesn't get any credit for me being the cradle of that art form, they never things. The way it makes it different in the first way the first. It's different because one it is such a negatively stereotyped place wherever I've been when people ask me where he from. I say the Bronx, and I could be in a village in Norway or in a small town in Italy or in Columbia and everyone respond to the same way. And that really informed me about how this horrifying pressure that people that live and are from the Bronx have to live every day when I was there in high school, my high school girlfriends would tell me about, you know, the Bronx, I would always be super positive about things. And they're just like things here are. I got to figure out that. Because of how other people thought about the Bronx. What a weight it was on people. What are negative? Wait. It was it was a movie for the patchy about, you know. Other. And that's what I was going to say in terms of light Rinus experience outside of the United States and people having this negative connotation, and and it really comes from the Bronx is burning. They took it literally did and to understand that. I mean like any other place in any other situation in any historical event. It's a lot more complex than what people make it out to be. But again, it's permissible because it is a stereotype of people of color and low income people and that is not right. The bronx. You know is incredibly diverse is your yes, you know, it is not just buildings. Wealthy neighborhoods. There is a really healthy middle-class there as well. But even if there weren't we need to really be respectful to what is so wrong with being color and poor or low income. Why why is there why is that okay? To be the butt of every single joke. And to me, I take personally because my time in the Bronx has honestly been the best times of my life. I've learned so much from these people that get kicked in the face every day just from being and just living somewhere and not even beginning to talk about their complex lies or anything like that. But you just say and people naturally don't live away. If you say, you're from another city, they're not getting that kind of negative connotation that it's already like a rock on your chest and two white is Bronx special Bronx special because no matter what people throw people from the Bronx. They succeed. No matter what people are producing in. This borough and half done. So we'll continue to do. So. Yeah, I have to I have to deal with Rinus said in terms of the Bronx. See I grew up in Brooklyn Brooklyn was like, you know, when you think of the Mongoose and the Cobra or the snake. That's how it was between Fook Lynn and the Bronx and the dodgers was still in Brooklyn. Story too. I'm sure. But I know that when I was young. When I was young if I was going to a party, and and it was in the Bronx. We will like no, we're not going. We're not going up there. But we it had such a negative connotation to it. And and it's not that Brooklyn didn't. But again, it it's like just two separate entities. You know? But one of the things I've been in the Bronx for about I wanna say close to twenty years now, and the Bronx is an amazing for with amazing people. I still will always be Brooklyn born because that's just you know, that's the whole thing. We're Brooklyn just had. This this whole. This thing like, my wife would say, you know, you walk around like you got a chip on your show. That's just McLennan me. Sorry about that. So that will always always carry it with me. But I I don't know what I would have done in my life. If I hadn't come to the Bronx. The Bronx is where I fell in love with photography. I fell in love with not just the photography has a whole. But also with the idea of shooting diversity and showing a side of humanity that sometimes I felt wasn't being seen in the Bronx. And so, you know, I love the Bronx. Now, this show has to come to an end people wanna see you work, where should they go? So currently, I have the puppy at master exhibition. The Bronx music heritage center. I'm also part of the pop up show the Bronx documentary center, and then just a few weeks ago. Suba who hid, you know, celebrating women's history month at the point. I have a few images there swelled, but you can took might work on Instagram Reina, Santos K. And also all of these will Lynch will be on our website. Yeah. I mean, I still have some images up at the pop up show and the BBC. That is probably it right now in terms of exhibitions, and but you can find me on Instagram at my street work is at M G young photography, and I have portrait work at portrait's by M G Y. Okay. Any post a lot? I mean, not almost you post regular and I'm clicking all the time. I'm not even sure what what you know. The you know, how often you supposed to post in that poll. I just throw. Regular you got a great scam. Feed is what I should've said appreciate also everyday Bronx. Look at that. And oh, an art should point out to to also check out everyday black America. I'm actually one of the curator's in one of the contributing photography. And it's is under the everyday family. Okay. And it's brought rungs documentary center dot org is at the website. That's right. Okay. Bronx dot org Bronx doctor. Okay. Great. All right. About an upcoming prod you're gonna start into project. I'm also part of the Bronx women's photo collective we're beginning to do a lot of events and encouraging and supporting a female photographers in the Bronx. And then hopefully, you know moving into new projects this year one following Star Wars fans here in New York starting starting local. Like every other photographer trying to apply for grants for work that I would love to continue like my work for Latino Muslims, and I would love to be able to to continue that working and and be able to photograph that more food for thought speaking food for thought if you on not as scribe it to this podcast, how come drop what you're doing right now and head on over to apple podcast, Google podcast, Stitcher, overcast Spotify any of them and sign up, and you can always find this on the bean age explorer website as well as being h photography podcast Facebook group page, which is up and running and growing like gangbusters. We have what way over five hundred members ready and remember tell them Cynthia and for now on behalf of Jason John myself as always thank you so much for joining us to day.