based in New York
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As a documentary photographer for over 25 years, my point of view has been to work slowly when it is possible. The domestic landscape of America has been my interest for the past two decades. Today...
Rodriguez’s photographs were (and remain) a rare window into a place that is considerably less famous than its adjoining neighbor to the west, the historically African American neighborhood of Harlem. Between the 1920s and 1940s, thousands of Puerto Ricans began settling in the area, also known as East Harlem or El Barrio, transforming it into a cultural hub. Rodriguez was raised in Brooklyn but frequently visited his uncle’s candy store in El Barrio as a child. In Spanish Harlem, he writes about being part of a spirited community where “people on the block would come by to play dominoes, listen to the music of Puente, Palmieri, Colón, drink beer and talk about baseball.”
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
| Success Stories
Joseph Rodriguez drove a cab from 1977 to 1985, and in the last two of those years, he was studying to be a photographer. He lost his first set of gear in a classic ’70s New York stabbing and mugging, but with a new camera, he documented what he saw on the job.
For Puerto Rican New Yorkers, El Barrio has been both haven and touchstone, a community that has welcomed and inspired generations. No matter where you lived in New York, sooner or later all roads led to 116th Street and Lexington Avenue, the commercial and cultural heart of East Harlem.
Joseph Rodriguez was no exception: Though born and raised in Brooklyn — with detours at Rikers and a life-changing encounter with photography — he, as a teenager, liked to hang out at his uncle’s candy store and numbers spot where the streets were abuzz with music and life. Those early encounters led to a May 1990 National Geographic cover story and the most important project of his life after he spent the latter half of the 1980’s photographing El Barrio’s streets and residents in their homes and on the block.
Now, a revised version of that body of work will be on display at the Bronx Documentary Center, as well as in the new book, “Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s.”