In the wake of World War I, Puerto Rican and Latin American immigrants first began arriving in New York, settling in a little corner of upper Manhattan around 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, which is now known as Spanish Harlem. With a foothold firmly established in El Barrio, the neighborhood blossomed after World War II, when a new wave of immigration transformed the face of the city.
To coincide with his Exhibition at Cologne’s Galerie Bene Taschen, we catch up with Joseph Rodriguez to discover more about his poignant ’80s snapshots of El Barrio.
Midway through Freedomland – the second of Richard Price’s three novels set in the fictional New Jersey city Dempsey – an ambitious local reporter scrutinizes the apartment of a mother grieving over the disappearance of her young son.
It took five years for Brooklyn-Born photographer Joseph Rodriguez to complete the Spansih Harlem series, his most expansive, thorough, and personal body of work to date. A Puerto Rican New Yorker born in the 50s, Rodriguez grew up strongly Aware of the stereotypical narratives attributed to his community across the Mainstream media – a reductive, simplistic discourse he always felt the urge to defy. „As a Latino, I wanted to own my Story,“ he tells us. „That’s why it took me so Long to make this work – I wanted to do the opposite of what the media did, and go in deeper, give a broader, wider lens view of what it truly meant to be a part of this community of East Harlem, ‚El Barrio‘.“
Joseph Rodriguez fotografierte in den 80er Jahren die Straßen und Häuser des New Yorker Viertels „Spanish Harlem“. Im Mittelpunkt stehen dabei nicht Kriminalität und Gewalt, sondern die Anwohner selbst. Sie gewährtem dem Fotografen Zugang zu ihrem Gemeinschaftsleben – so entstanden intime Fotografien, die vom 20. April bis zum 30. Juni in der Kölner Galerie Bene Taschen ausgestellt werden.
Galerie Bene Taschen hosts David LaChapelle’s „Recollections in America” and Joseph Rodriguez’s „Spanish Harlem“ joint exhibition at its Cologne venue.
Incredible portraits capture characters of the troubled neighborhood at a time when outsiders wouldn’t dare to enter:
In den Achtzigerjahren war das New Yorker Viertel „Spanish Harlem“ nur für Insider zugänglich. Joseph Rodriguez zeigt in seinen Bildern den Geist der Nachbarschaft.
IN THE LATE 1980s, Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican photographer Joseph Rodriguez spent five years in northeastern Manhattan making pictures of the working-class Puerto Rican and black residents of Spanish Harlem, an area known affectionately as El Barrio. His photographs are counterpoints to the once pervasive depictions of a place identified widely with a supposed culture of poverty, its people the archetypes for the irredeemable black and brown subjects of late twentieth-century America’s urban crises. The fourteen largeformat color prints that were shown at the Bronx Documentary Center’s storefront gallery this past winter, accompanied by images emanating from two slide projectors at the center of the room, confront the dehumanizing effects of structural inequality and municipal disinvestment. Yet the scenes Rodriguez captured also affirm that these conditions did little to extinguish the vibrancy of kinship and other social ties at the heart of a community.
The New York neighbourhood of East Harlem, or El Barrio, has long been the home of many of the city’s Latino population. Journalist Ed Morales describes it as the place „where hip-hop and salsa trumps classical, prime real estate gives way to inner city“.