ONE MORE FOR THE BRONX – WINNER OF THE SUNLIGHT CATEGORY
Often times we photographers shoot an image not really knowing why it means so much to us and it’s often later, in the processing, that a story begins to unfold similar to the feeling of editing a film.
I took this photo sometime last year as I was walking through the Bronx with my friend Abraham. The apartment complexes in the area in which he lives are quite large and most of them are connected. Suddenly, we came upon two buildings that had this large alley dividing them and I was taken back by not only the grandness of it all but at how the light was entering the alley. It was a long alley, so standing on the one end of it was quite dramatic. I left the area knowing that I had taken a great shot but was kind of stumped as to what to do with it.
While there are certainly dark realities evident in the Bronx, as with any of the five boroughs, my intent as a photographer is not necessarily to capture those realities.
Here is where things start to get interesting for me and this image…I was born and raised in the Bronx as was my whole family. My grandmother founded a church on Castle Hill and the majority of my childhood was spent in the Bronx and its surrounding communities. As I grew older, I started to develop a deeper appreciation for the area, its denizens, and its history. I don’t think people realize how diverse of a population lives in the Bronx. The area is plagued with so many stereotypes of poverty, crime, etc, but there’s a beauty that is hard to appreciate if you’re not from the community. These negative stereotypes are often what is reflected in the iconic photographs of the area. While there are certainly dark realities evident in the Bronx, as with any of the five boroughs, my intent as a photographer is not necessarily to capture those realities. Having lived there, I’m not overly fascinated or intrigued by these images. Yes, they are important pictures and convey profound truths but there’s another side worth looking at: the deep-rooted hope and perseverance of the community. Photographing poverty for poverty’s sake is not very interesting but when you couple it with something beyond the literal, like hope, then I feel you have an image that evokes much deeper discussion and thought.
These ideas began to filter through my brain as I was processing “One More for the Bronx” and they drastically changed the course of my edit. My goal became to somehow blend the ideas of struggle and hope into one. Part of this was already in the original shot: the gritty urban element of the building and its fire escapes combined with the vanishing point. I had the buildings looking the way I wanted them to look but somehow the vanishing point needed to represent “hope.” Something needed to creep over this vanishing point and I thought to put a sun there. Yes, I said I put a sun in there. That day was cold and had overcast skies with wonderful even light but no sun. So, using the Lens Light app I placed the sun on the vanishing point along with some extra light elements to convey a feeling of warmth bleeding over the alley, its cars, and concrete.
Photographing poverty for poverty’s sake is not very interesting but when you couple it with something beyond the literal, like hope, then I feel you have an image that evokes much deeper discussion and thought.
A sunrise and sunset are often synonymous with feelings of closure, new opportunity, peace, beauty, joy, stillness, and clarity. These are all adjectives that I wanted this image to evoke especially when photographing a neighborhood in which I grew up while at the same time not excluding the those darker realities I experienced as well. To my eyes, the sun was the perfect character to display “hope” in the image and was an ideal contrast to the urban setting.
While the camera in an iPhone 4/4s is very impressive, for me it’s really the applications that expand the boundaries of what a picture can be. In many ways mobile photography and the processes that come along with it assist me as a photographer to create images like “One More for the Bronx.” The combination of a limited camera with applications of unlimited potential provides a great learning tool. It forces the photographer to be more critical and to be more intentional about their images. Having a device that is so accessible certainly heightens our visual interest in the world around us, but more importantly then helping a photographer “see,” it helps a photographer to think.