Back towards the end of May last year, Thomas Stubbings of Austria was visiting New York City. It wasn’t his first time here since Stubbings has been visiting the city since the early 80s — but it was his first time in The Bronx in 30 years of coming to New York.
“I had been to New York about ten times but never to The Bronx,” said Stubbings yesterday as I visited with him while he was setting up for the opening of the exhibition this Saturday July 5th at Poe Park Visitor Center in Kingsbridge. “I still had the old images, the clichés of what The Bronx was. With each visit I had done everything to avoid The Bronx and going around it.”
So last year he decided to change all that and after researching tours that’s when he stumbled across MCNY Tours owned and operated by Bronx resident Alexandra Maruri.
“I’ve been to the Empire State Building four times and asked myself do I really need to see it a fifth time?”, he told me recounting his journey last year.
According to Maruri, Stubbings had arranged for a 6 hour historical tour of The Bronx but quickly turned out to be a ten hours excursion through our borough.
It was during that time where Thomas Stubbings’ perception of The Bronx began to melt away.
“The more I walked around, the more interesting, the more lovely these places appeared; so different from the images of The Bronx I was used to seeing.”, he told us.
That’s when Maruri and Stubbings came up with the idea of a photography exhibition to showcase the real Bronx and help dispel the myths and stereotypes of our borough came about.
They approached Lucy Aponte, Director of the Poe Visitor Center, with the idea and although she liked the idea, Maruri said, “…she felt the exhibit needed something extra, Ms. Aponte suggested to Mr. Stubbings to create an artistic comparison of both places, the Bronx and Vienna Mr. Stubbings home residence in Austria.”
And it was with something so simple as a visit to a forgotten and unwanted borough that ‘The Bronx Meets Vienna’ was born.
The exhibition will display 24 portraits shot by Thomas Stubbings; 12 of The Bronx and 12 of Vienna showing every day life in both places.
I asked if he would put similar photographs from both locations side by side but Stubbings said he wanted the exhibition to make people think about where each particular photograph was taken so it’s not as obvious. “The thought process is very much an important part of this exhibition.”, he says.
Indeed, after looking at several prints, I had to really look at them to be sure where they were taken.
I asked Stubbings what did he enjoy most about shooting in The Bronx and he simply replied, “The positive spirit, the energy, the mood of the people was so different from the expectations that surprised me. Everyone was so friendly.”
“Although we’re different, there are more similarities when you look closely,” Stubbings explained, “whether it’s children playing, or people walking with their heads down looking at their smartphones, we’re not so different. There some things which unites us and shoes how close we are.”
‘Bronx Meets Vienna’ runs from Saturday, July 5th through August 16th at the Poe Visitor Center in Kingsbridge. The exhibition will hit the road and will be shown in Vienna, Austria by the end of this year.
Opening reception with photographer Thomas Stubbings will be held this Saturday July 5th from 1PM – 4PM so make sure to come out and meet the artist and chat with him as well as give him a big old Welcome to The Bronx.
Poe Park Visitor Center is located at:
2640 Grand Concourse, New York, NY 10458
Operating hours are from Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9AM – 5:00PM
The Bronx meets Vienna Supporters
*A Special Thanks to The Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) an agency of the Republic of Austria, part of the Austrian Consulate General in New York, Fordham Road BID, NYC & Company, The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, The Woodlawn Conservancy, & The Opera House Hotel & Welcome2TheBronx for their assistance and support.
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