Quantcast
Bordered by the curving Harlem River, the Bronx is the only borough to be attached to the mainland.

Bordered by the curving Harlem River, the Bronx is the only borough to be attached to the mainland.

How to make sense of what happened to the Bronx in the 1960s and ‘70s? The violence, the abandonment, the fires, the astounding destruction of property—all in a borough of New York once renowned for its stately boulevards, handsome housing stock, glorious parks, and extraordinary public transportation.

Now six photographers of Puerto Rican heritage—Joe Conzo Jr, Ricky Flores, Ángel Franco, David Gonzalez, Edwin Pagán and Francisco Molina Reyes II—who grew up in the South Bronx have compiled an exhibit of their photos from the 70s through the 90s. Seis Del Sur: Dispatches from Home, mounted by the Bronx Documentary Center, permits the photos to speak for themselves, sometimes accompanied by sparse captions but always avoiding maudlin commentary.

David Gonzalez discusses Joe Conzo Jr's photo of Bronx musicians Ray Barreto, Tito Puente, Machito, Joe Quijano, Charlie Palmeri and Johnny Pacheco at Beau's Restaurant in 1980.

David Gonzalez discusses Joe Conzo Jr’s photo of Bronx musicians Ray Barreto, Tito Puente, Machito, Joe Quijano, Charlie Palmeri and Johnny Pacheco at Beau’s Restaurant in 1980.

This austere style reflects an admirable self-discipline, given the deeply emotional character of the events. “Over the last 30 years, the Bronx has taken every conceivable body blow a community can take,” said New York Times reporter and photographer Gonzalez at the Jan. 19 opening. “And guess what? We’re still standing.”

Conzo photographed The Popper at Roseland in 1980 when hip hop had just been imported to Manhattan from the Bronx, and few onlookers were 100% sure what it was.

Conzo photographed The Popper at Roseland in 1980 when hip hop had just been imported to Manhattan from the Bronx, and few onlookers were 100% sure what it was.

If you didn't live through the bad times you might not be willing to believe that Flores's shot of the 6 train in 1984 was real--but it was. The MTA had basically given up on maintenance and safety.

If you didn’t live through the bad times you might not be willing to believe that Flores’s shot of the 6 train in 1984 was real–but it was. The MTA had basically given up on maintenance and safety.

Ángel Franco once told the New York Times that while there were good cops and bad cops, the minute a child was involved the cops were there to help. Here officers carry a boy who had been caught in crossfire from a drug war, and shot in the chest while riding his bike.

Ángel Franco once told the New York Times that while there were good cops and bad cops, the minute a child was involved the cops were there to help. Here officers carry a boy who had been caught in crossfire from a drug war, shot in the chest while riding his bike.

In Pagan's poignant photo, a woman carrying succulents and burdens walks beneath the El line.

In Pagan’s poignant photo a woman carrying succulents and burdens walks beneath the El line.

Art or vandalism? A debate then and now, nicely illustrated by Francisco Molina Reynes’s photo.

Art or vandalism? A debate then and now, nicely illustrated by Francisco Molina Reynes’s photo.

Clasped in a tango embrace, dancers in Mott Haven in 1979 express Gonzalez’s view that despite everything the Bronx  still stands.

Clasped in a tango embrace, dancers in Mott Haven in 1979 express Gonzalez’s view that despite everything the Bronx still stands.

Smiling Bronx teens sitting in front of Jose Ortega's mosaic murals--One Race, One World, One Universe--will welcome you to the MTA's station for the 2 or 5 trains at 149th Street & Third Avenue.

Smiling Bronx teens sitting in front of Jose Ortega’s mosaic murals–One Race, One World, One Universe–will welcome you to the MTA’s station for the 2 or 5 trains at 149th Street & Third Avenue.

GETTING THERE: The Bronx Documentary Center is at 614 Courtlandt Avenue (at 151st Street). You can take either the 2 or the 5 train to 3rd Avenue and 149th Street (do not get off at 149th & Grand Concourse), walk two blocks to 151st, take a left, trudge up the hill to Courtlandt. The BDC is on the corner.

Hours: 4:00-7:00 p.m, Thurs & Fri; 1:00-5:00 p.m., Sat & Sun, through March 8, 2013.

4 Comments

  1. Mary says:

    The tango dancers in the lonely landscape have a World War II look–appropriate for the Bronx back then

  2. Fair enough. The BX’s public transpo is far superior to that of any comparable area in any other American city–perhaps any other world city (even London)–but there are serious holes. And bus service (as opposed to structural bus lines) has deteriorated all over NYC, alas)

  3. […] post Six Eminent Photographers Look Back at the Bronx appeared first on Untapped New […]

  4. annrafalko says:

    I don’t know if I would ever go so far as to say the Bronx has extraordinary public transportation. One look at the subway map should point out an alarmingly glaring omission in the Bronx; the absence of a single east-west connector train, let alone the several that a borough the size of the Bronx truly necessitates. I work in the Bronx with many people who live in the various and sundry neighborhoods of this fine borough. I have never heard anyone praise the buses in the Bronx, they are resoundingly awful, and many of my coworkers are forced to drive to work or take gypsy cabs to get here.

Leave a Comment