Puerto Rican Heritage Month

From the first issue of Nueva Luz, Puerto Rican women photographers have been important contributors to creating historic and creative narrative. Our first issue featured the work of Sophie Rivera, and since then Nueva Luz has featured many Puerto Rican women: (top ow) Clarissa B. Aponte, April Pabón, Lizzy Alejandro, Sandra Ayala, (middle row) Frieda Medín, Kasey-Lynn “Kasinator” Rodriguez, Rhynna M. Santos, (bottom row) María José, Melanie Gonzalez, Nitza Luna, Sandra Reus, and many others.

In celebration of Puerto Rican Heritage Month, En Foco recognizes these women as important voices in documenting culture and ensuring all voices escape the margins and be included in broader artistic narratives.

Click here and visit the Nueva Luz archives to view the work of Sophie Rivera, and the other photographers.

Thanks to the foresight and hard work of it’s founders, Nueva Luz continues to provide a vibrant and critically important platform for presenting lens-based work by artists committed to presenting myriad images.

Sophie Rivera
Featured in 1:1 Winter 1985, 7:2 Commemorative Issue 2000

Bio: Sophie Rivera attended The New School for Social Research in New York City. She has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Latin America. Currently her work is part of “Tercer Coloquio Latinoamericano de Fotografia” en La Habana, Cuba. Sophie has also shown her work at P.S.I., NYC, The New Museum, NYC, Museo del Barrio, NYC, Salmagundi Club, NYC, Caribbean Culture Center, NYC, Purdue University, Indiana, Rutgers University North Museum Gallery, Newark, NewJersey, Casa Aboy, Puerto Rico, The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois, Latitude 53, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Kenkelba House, NYC, Intar Latinamerican Gallery, NYC, Castillo Gallery, NYC. She has also been a guest curator at the Museo del Barrio and Castillo Gallery of NYC. The Liberation News Service, United Press International, the Village Voice, the Daily News, Heresies, Women Artists News, and Majority Report to Women have featured her work.
Website: https://www.sophierivera.net

Frieda Medín
Featured in 1:4, 1987

Bio: Frieda Medin Ojeda, was bom in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She began her photographic studies at Sacred Heart College in Santurce, augmented with workshops under the tutorship of John Betancourt. Besides a freelance photographer and Assistant Producer for Guastella Films, Frieda is also a model/actress, and associate of Zoom Photographic, Inc., a custom lab, with her partners Jose Ruben Gaztambide and John Betancourt. Exhibitions include: Galeria Botello/ Plaza Las Americas, series, “La Maldita Inseguridad”, “Aguas Que Corren, Piedras Que Esperan—- “, “Kill You”, “Interioridades Rotas”; Zoom Photographic Art Gallery, “Desnudos” series “La Maldita Inseguridad”; New Museum of Contemporary Art, “La Gran Pasion” (traveling exhibition); Tony’s Place, Graphic Exposition; International Women’s Festival, series from “Confrontaciones’, “Variacion de un mismo Tema I”, Galeria MSA, San Juan; “Cruces y Sombras”, Museo Bellas Artes, Old San Juan. (Headshot: Self portrait, 1987)

Sandra Reus
Featured in 3:3, 1990
Bio: Sandra Reus is a freelance photojournalist born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from William Smith University, Geneva, New York and has studied at the New York Studio School, as well as the University of Puerto Rico. A self-taught photographer, she has been exhibited in the United States, Puerto Rico, France, Cuba and Columbia. Her most recent solo exhibition Belleza Encarnada, was at the Museo de Grabado Latinoamericano, San Juan, Puerto Rico, while an earlier exhibition took place at Galena San Juan Bautista, andCasaAlcaldin de SanJuan, both Puerto Rico. Group exhibitions include: Museo del Barrio, Galena Fotografica, New York; Consejo Puertorriqueño, Puerto Rico; Casa de las Americas, Cuba; and the Universidad Autonoma Latinamericana, Colombia. Reus has received several photojournalism awards through the Overseas Press Club. In 1988, she received the OPC’s Joel Magruger Fellowship to complete a photographic essay comparing the family life of different social classes in Haiti. (Headshot: Alan M. Hirch)

Rita Rivera
Featured in 5:1, 1997, 7:2 Commemorative Issue 2000, 18:2
Bio: Rivera is a self-taught New York City based freelance photographer. Her work has been exhibited at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico; Konica Plaza in Tokyo, Japan; Nikon House and E3 Gallery in Manhattan; and at Hostos Art Gallery/Center for the Art & Culture, Bronx, New York. She has also been awarded a 1996 En Foco competition to create new works, many of which are published within this issue. Current projects include the book Raza: Latinos in America by Olmos Productions; book covers for Penguin Books, Houghton Mifflin and Simon & Schuster; and photographing for New York Latino magazine and El Diario La Prensa. (Headshot: Kevin Tichner)

Nitza Luna
Featured in 8:1, 2002

Bio: Nitza Luna was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1959. Luna attended the Pratt Institute School of Arts in New York, where she became interested in Platinum Process techniques. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in 1981, and received a Master’s Degree in 1985 from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. Luna’s work has been exhibited at the Galena Botello, Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan, Museo de las Americas, and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, all in San Juan, PR; Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico; El Museo del Barrio and The Platinum Gallery, New York, NY; the Main Gallery, Amherst, MA; En Foco at Hostos Art Gallery, Bronx, NY; Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA; Durango Arts Center, Durango, CO; and many others. Among her grants and awards are the MacDowell Colony, 1989; the Permanent Art Foundation of Puerto Rico, 1993 and 1996; and the National Foundation for the Cultural Affairs of Puerto Rico, 1994 and 1996. Since 1987, Luna has been part of the faculty of Sacred Heart University, School of communications in Santurce, Puerto Rico, where she resides.

Wilka Roig (In collaboration with Tarrah Krajnak)
Featured in 13:3, 2009

Bio: Wilka Roig was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She moved to Ithaca, New York in 1995 and received her M.F.A in Photography from Cornell University in 2005. Wilka still lives in Ithaca, where she teaches Photography in the Department of Art at Cornell University. As a collaborative, their projects have been shown at the Philoctetes Center in New York, NY; the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; SF Camerawork in San Francisco, CA; among others. They have received grants from the Vermont Committee of the National Museum and Cornell Council for the Arts, and were part of the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s Artist in Residence program in 2008.
Website: https://wilkaroig.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wilka_roig/

Lorie Caval (In collaboration with Muema Lombe)
Featured in 14:1, 2009
Haitian-Puerto Rican
Bio: Lorie Caval is a self-taught visual artist, and a songwriter and spoken-word writer/recording artist. Her work has been shown at Melting Pot in New York City and the Bronx Academy of Art and Dance (BAAD), among others. In the mid-1990s, she co-founded Bang The Party, an underground house music, art, and dance party that spawned various projects including the compilation album Bang The Party: Volume One (Jellybean Recordings/Sony). Their collaborative series Mashups has been shown at Aljira in Newark, NJ.
Website: https://loriecaval.com/

Rhynna M. Santos, Member of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective
Featured in 20:1, 2016, 22:1 , 2018

Bio: Rhynna M. Santos is a photographer born in Puerto Rico and currently residing in the Bronx. Ms. Santos’ work depicts the everyday life and perspective of people of color. Her work has been featured in Curate NYC 2013, Jerome Avenue Workers Project 2015, Living Latina 2016, and Bronx Now 2016. In collaboration with En Foco, Ms. Santos’ photographs were featured in the article “Living Latina: The Bronx Women’s Photo Collective,” Nueva Luz Photographic Journal 2016, Volume 20, Number 1. Santos is a member of the Bronx Photo League at the Bronx Documentary Center, curator for the Instagram feed Everyday Bronx and founder of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective. In addition, Santos serves as co-executive Chair of the Bronx Culture Collective. Ms. Santos earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from UCLA in 2007 and has lived and worked in Spain, where she entered and placed in her first photography competition, PhotoEspaña.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/EverydayBronx/

Sandra Ayala, Member of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective
Featured in 20:1, 2016

Bio: Sandra Ayala is a self-taught visual artist/photographer born and raised in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents; liberating her mind by creating works of Art that speak to her emotionally and free her from everyday life. By using familiar subjects to create one of a kind fine art portraits she is able to capture the viewer’s attention and bring forth emotions and visions from within her head onto a canvas. Ayala resides in the Bronx and often uses its amazing parks as her backdrops. Ayala is currently working on a project about inspirational Latinas. Ayala has exhibited her work for the Armory show at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, BronxArtSpace, Edgar Allan Poe Visitor’s Center, Lincoln Hospital Exhibition Hall, and Rush Art Gallery in NYC.
Website: https://www.sandraayalaphoto.com/

Lizzy Alejandro, Member of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective
Featured in 20:1, 2016

Bio: Lizzy Alejandro is a visual artist, born and raised in The Bronx. She attended Lehman College, earning her BA in Studio Art with a concentration in photography. Alejandro fell in love with photography at the age of 16 when she enrolled for photography classes at a program called The Point, located in the South Bronx. Since then, she has not put down her camera. In 2010, Alejandro fell in love yet again; inspired by the work of Banksy and M.I.A, she started creating stencils from her photographs. She often combines the two mediums in her work. Alejandro has exhibited at the Lehman College Art Gallery, BronxArtSpace, Andrew Freedman Home, the Galleries at Krasdale Foods, and in the Bronx Latin American Art Biennial. She still resides in The Bronx.
Website: https://www.lizzyalejandro.com

María José
Featured in 22:2, 2018

Bio: María José was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico in 1992. María José is a photographer, performer, and poet. As a photographer, María focuses on The Portrait; with deep, ongoing consideration of ethical casting, enthusiastic consent/collaboration, fair representation/compensation, and artistic responsibility. Stylistically, her photographs are classic, soft, and upfront. Thematically, the images examine queerness, family, community, nudity, politics, and romance with trans identity at their core. In 2015 she received her BFA in Photography at Parsons The New School of Design, and was chosen as one of the winners of the Pride Photo Award. María José has been included in group exhibitions at the Old Church in Amsterdam, MoMA PS1, Site/109, and the Sheila Johnson Design Center in New York. She currently lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Melanie Gonzalaez
Featured in 23:1, 2019

Dominican & Puerto Rican
Bio: MELANIE GONZALEZ is an interdisciplinary photographer and video and film production artist. For the past ten years, Gonzalez has been creating and directing photographic narratives, shooting and editing conceptual visuals, live performances, cultural documentation, and interviews; as well as art directing for installations, music videos, events, and art exhibitions. Her work has been featured at El Museo Centro de Leon, Concourse House, Longwood Art Gallery, Wave Hill Sunroom Project Space, The American Museum of Natural History, Medianoche New Media Gallery and Digital Film Studio, The Andrew Freedman Home, The Clemente Gallery, and Temporary Storage Gallery. Gonzalez was also a 2015–2016 recipient of the Arts Fund grant from the Bronx Council on the Arts. Gonzalez is from the Bronx of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent. She acquired a Bachelor’s in Studio Art Photography and Italian language from The City College of New York in 2014.

Kasey-Lynn “Kasinator” Rodriguez
Featured in 23:2, 2019

Bio: KASEY-LYNN “KASINATOR” RODRIGUEZ is a photographer whose current focus is on a long-term personal documentary project about the Bronx, New York. Self-taught, she later attended and graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Photography and Video in 2016. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Professional Studies in Fashion Marketing at LIM College in NYC. Her work has been featured in Elle UK, A.R.T.S.Y Magazine, Fader Magazine, and Bronxnet TV. Rodriguez is currently a freelance photographer for the Bronx Times newspaper. In 2017, she created a line of apparel using her photography that represented Bronx culture.
Website: https://www.kasinatorvisuals.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kasinatorvisuals/

April Pabón
Featured in 23:2, 2019

Bio: APRIL PABÓN was born in New York City, NY in 1985. She received her BFA in Photography from the School Of Visual Arts in New York, concentrating on portraiture and fashion. Her portrait work has been exhibited in several local galleries in the New York City area (Brooklyn, East Harlem, Lower East Side and Chelsea). She was a recipient of the Center of Arts Education Internship program, School of Visual Arts Mentor program mentee, and received an Association of Hispanic Arts Inc. (AHA) artist grant. Her meticulous eye has pulled her into the video/film production world, taking on roles such as first assistant camera, art director, and director. April resides and works in New York City.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/photoqueen185/?hl=en
Website: https://www.aprilpabon.com/

Clarissa B. Aponte (In collaboration with Roberta Dorsett)
Featured in 24:1, 2020

Bio: Clarissa B. Aponte is a Puerto Rican photographer born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island. Clarissa earned her B.A. in Studio Art with a concentration in photography from The City College of New York. She previously worked at Falkland Road Inc., helping to organize the archive of photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Clarissa’s work concentrates on her familial relationships and environments, and how both aspects of her life have played a significant role in shaping her identity.
Website: https://clarissaaponte.wixsite.com/photography
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixbyriss/?hl=en

En Foco continues its celebration of Puerto Rican Heritage Month. Our second post focuses on an intimate conversation between the founding executive director of En Foco, Inc., Charles Biasiny-Rivera and Bill Aguado, the current executive director.

The conversation took place in September 2020, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. On view, Dos Mundos: (Re)Constructing Narratives, which was organized by En Foco.

Click here to visit the Dos Mundos virtual exhibition.

In celebration of Puerto Rican Heritage Month, En Foco recognizes it’s founders and the important role Puerto Ricans have played in starting this organization and their artistic contributions to Nueva Luz, the bi-annual photography magazine.

Pictured above are En Foco founders and early supporters circa 1974 (top row): Charles Biasiny-Rivera, founder; Roger Cabán, founder; George Malavé; (bottom row): Phil Dante, founder; and Nestor Cortijo. This was a vanguard of young photographers who committed themselves to change the presentation of Black and Latinx people.


“We started out as a handful of New York Puerto Rican photographers, displaying our work at summer block parties in the South Bronx, neighborhood bodegas, and coffee houses in Greenwich Village. Those early days were filled with excitement, hardly anyone was acquainted with Latino photographers, but we worked hard to establish our own visual identity. A few years later, we embraced photographers from all the cultures of color in the U.S.” -Charles Biasiny-Rivera

Thanks to the foresight and hard work of its founders Nueva Luz remains a vibrant and critically important platform for presenting lens-based work by artists committed to centering marginalized narratives.

Click here to read the first, published in 1985, and all the issues of Nueva Luz. Featured in the premiere issue were Sophie Rivera, Tony Mendoza, and Kenro Izu.

Charles Biasiny-Rivera in conversation with Bill Aguado, executive director of En Foco

Focusing on the Hidden History By David Gonzalez, The New York Times, Jan. 24, 2012
Nueva Luz on Issuu

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