The En Foco 2020 Photography Fellowship Exhibition: Your Reflection, This Memory features the works of Akshay Bhoan, Johnnie Chatman, Odette Chavez-Mayo, Luis Diaz, Roberta Dorsett & Clarissa B. Aponte (Collaborators), Jon Henry, Antonio Johnson, Rahul Majumdar, Josefina Moran, and Betty Yu, and is curated by Julia Mata. The exhibition was originally scheduled to be held at BronxArtSpace, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was transitioned to an online exhibition.
The En Foco Fellowship photographers in each of their distinct ways, meticulously use their powers of observation, commentary, and response to create images that document a variety of realities. The fellows create both staged and spontaneous shots of interpersonal relationships, city and home landscapes, social and political dynamics, and their collaborative processes with each other. Through each of their bodies of work they amplify concrete realities as well as staged interpretations that display the underbelly of the social structures we live in. The work is a range of styles and outlooks, from different vantage points of the contemporary photography world. We have the straightforward report-style approach of an investigator seeking out the truth right up next to a more contemplative and surreal project. It’s a sample of the field of new works by some very strong and very different voices.
Betty Yu follows a joint story of the relationship between her parents as they do everyday errands within the backdrop of the working-class immigrant neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The neighborhood is facing and actively confronting accelerated displacement and gentrification, which makes itself so visible by the giant new structures right up against her family’s home. Luis Diaz collaborates with his family to create portraits of them in their home in New Rochelle, NY. The black and white images are quiet gestures towards providing a counter-narrative of the ins and outs of a particular NY immigrant family. Rahul Majumdar, in turn, has been covering his family dynamics and locations of significance to them, which most poignantly shows up in his image of the site of their ancestral home, a place which no longer physically exists, but has immense emotional and historical weight.
Akshay Bhoan spent four years covering subway riders in New York on his phone, creating a dark, atmospheric, and grimy photobook that mirrors the feeling of defeat and trial that the MTA usually provokes in its ridership. Antonio Johnson took a look at the rituals that happen within a barbershop, and what types of conversations and affirmations can come out of that space for Black men. Josefina Moran has been interested in portraying the nuances and challenges that teen girls experience, collaborating with the girls to create portraits in their homes that reflected how they expressed themselves in that transitional stage of life.
Jon Henry worked with Black mothers and sons across the U.S. to create a portrait series of the care, grief, and rage of imagining the possibility of losing a child to police violence. Johnnie Chatman’s self-portraits are both an exploration of the dominant and reductivist narratives of the West and of blackness. It is a story about understanding and having a sense of oneself within a framework creating what is allegedly your narrative. Odette Chavez-Mayo aligns with this approach in collaborating with incarcerated women to create affirming portraits in a restrictive and oppressive environment. Her weapon of choice is creating beauty in the face of erasure.
And finally, there is the duo of Clarissa B. Aponte and Roberta Dorsett — a group of their own. The two broke from their typical documentary styles to collaborate on a totally new series of cameraless experimental images. The wide, abstract images that came out of that collaboration are almost like a breakdown of their usual approaches to the medium, allowing for an expansiveness and different way of thinking about art-making tools.