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El Barrio in the '80s
Table of Contents
About The Book
Spanish Harlem, New York's oldest barrio, is the U.S. mecca where Puerto Ricans first established themselves in the 1940s. One of America's most vital centers of Latino culture, Spanish Harlem is home to 125,000 people, half of whom are Latino. Shot in the mid-to-late 80s, Joseph Rodriguez's superb photographs bring us into the core of the neighborhood, capturing a spirit of a people that survives despite the ravages of poverty, and more recently, the threat of gentrification and displacement. In a now-distant landscape littered with abandoned buildings, ominous alleyways, and the plague of addiction, the residents of Spanish Harlem persevered with flamboyant style and gritty self-reliance.
The heart of the work comes from Rodriguez's intimacy and access. The trust and familiarity he built with his subjects-repeated visits with no camera, then no photographing, then little by little, a peek here, a shot there-allowed him to transcend surface level sheen and exploitation to capture images that reveal the essence of the neighborhood and of the era. That access paired with a sharp eye for detail and composition, and the practiced and disciplined ability to find the perfect moment, led to the creation of an entirely unique and breathtaking narrative. From idyllic scenes of children playing under the sprinklers on the playground, or performing the Bomba Plena on "Old Timer's Day," to shocking images of men shooting up speedballs and children dying of AIDS, Rodriguez reveals a day in the life of the barrio in the 1980s.
- Publisher: powerHouse Books (November 21, 2017)
- Length: 200 pages
- ISBN13: 9781576878255
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Raves and Reviews
"Rodriguez's photographs of East Harlem capture the core of the neighborhood, a spirit of a people that survives despite the ravages of poverty, and more recently, the threat of gentrification and displacement. The trust and familiarity he built with his subjects-repeated visits with no camera, then no photographing, then little by little, a peek here, a shot there-allowed him to transcend surface level sheen and exploitation to capture images that reveal the essence of the neighborhood and of the era."
– Amadeus Magazine
"His Kodachrome photographs tell stories of a community that persevered and even flourished in the face of addiction, urban decay, and, eventually, gentrification."
"Rodriguez shows himself to be a compassionate and astute chronicler of the quotidian experiences of the people he photographs. The spontaneous quality that suffuses many of his images belies a far more intricate and dedicated photographic process honed over the years he spent in El Barrio."
– Art in America
"They don't come more New York than Joseph Rodriguez."
– It's Nice That
"...unearthing huge new caches of images, and re-editing and showcasing the body of work in a beautiful, deluxe monograph, reframing the project as one that pushed beyond documentary into the realm of fine art."
– F-Stop Magazine
"Whether it be wild street parties or impoverished tenement families crammed into a single room, the full spectrum of life in East Harlem was preserved by Rodriguez's film work."
"These photos of Spanish Harlem in the 1980s, show the lush, tough life of a vibrant neighborhood."
"The rough and the ready of 1980s Spanish Harlem captured in all its tenaciousness by documentary photographer Joseph Rodriguez."
"What's beautiful about Rodriquez's work - besides the rawness, grit and vibrance of the tableaus he paints - is that his work simultaneouslyglorifies the past and celebrates the Harlem that still exists today."
– Creative Review
AS SEEN IN: Huck Magazine, New York Times, Yahoo! News, SLEEK, feature shoot, Remezcla, PDN, The Observers
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