Photographers are communicators since the medium’s inception, whether functioning as fine artists, photojournalists, or commercial freelancers. In this present moment, photographs are at the fore of information documenting the ongoing war in Europe in press and social media. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia provides a historical moment calling for reflection and reassessment of humanity’s existence. Each generation supports the idea of progress, but how is it quantified?
Conflicts arise when outside forces disrupt the natural growth of individuals, groups, communities, villages, and countries. Humanity’s continuous battle of superiority over one another generates chaos and an upward trajectory of distractions to obscure the genuine truth of simply being defective. Consumed by power and material wealth, the act of war is to choose violence over peace—fighting on the streets of neighborhoods, cities, or capitals. Trepidation, mania, of the diverse people, leads us to a lack of peaceful coexistence.
Every generation has faced this dilemma, the retrospect of its inner darkness. The question is, how can the current generation become a catalyst that garners a positive outcome? How can we, as a society, solve our intrinsic attraction for cruelty and its damaging consequences?
It is unavoidable to reflect on the layers of isms within sex, gender, race, class, age, etc. And although my assessment of humanity seems bleak, there is a crucial group in our society that can garner change, and that is the artists. By exposing their experiences of their surroundings with unwavering determination, a dialogue is generated that confronts the ugliest truth of our society while also creating the possibility of progress. Pushing society’s boundaries and its falseness to reveal what is there.
In the words of James Baldwin from Creative America: “The precise role of the artist then is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”
Black and white photography is the main attraction for me. It is removed from the glitz and glamour of color. It tears down the noise and provides the simplicity of what is there. The medium supplies clarity, truth, and a path to a destination without complications. There are some grays between the spaces, but life is the same. We live in grays and come alive in the drama of contractions and extremes.
As a photographer, I used my camera to break down my earlier isolation programming and explore my surroundings. The camera gives me permission to investigate and learn what others do. It demands a visual understanding of whom my subjects are with empathy and patience, whether it’s a long-term documentary project at a Bronx Firehouse (1997–2002), at a Bronx Monastery (1996–1997), or as a photojournalist working on extensive photo essays.
This street photography project has evolved from the Lower Manhattan series to Night Vision, a collection of images of the LES and Chinatown captured at night, resequenced, and translated into a triptych.
Using the triptych format, the visual language changes to a story on a panel that becomes a question of relationships from one image with another—placed together organically, not logically, to be deciphered by the viewer.
En Foco is supported in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, BronxCare Health System, The Joy of Giving Something, Inc., Rockefeller Brothers Fund Culpeper Arts and Culture, New York Community Trust Mosaic Network & Fund the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Aguado-Pavlick Arts Fund.