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From a 3rd generation Jewish shopkeeper, to a Salvadoran auto worker, to an African hairdresser and a Latina nail salon worker, these are the people that the Bronx Documentary Center’s Bronx Photo League have been documenting for many months now for their upcoming exhibition, ‘Jerome Avenue Workers Project’.

Last year, New York City Department of City Planning announced that they were studying the “Cromwell-Jerome” area of The Bronx—an area that doesn’t exist which spurred fears of rebranding and gentrification—for possible rezoning due to rise in population and projected increases in population over the next several decades.

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The study area went from 57 blocks to a massive 73 block area quickly prompting fears about displacement, particularly with the automotive industries which for decades have been housed along Jerome Avenue along with other mom and pop shops, the very businesses which are the lifeblood and fabric of a community.

Although a plan hasn’t been created and the community is being asked to participate in what they’d like their neighborhoods to look like, it hasn’t stopped fears or landlords already trying to cash in on a possible upzoning making their properties valuable in the eyes of speculators and real estate developers.

Tessie Polygerinos at Munchtime Diner on 170th St. between Jerome Avenue & Townsend Avenue. Her husband, Laki, has owned the diner since the 1960s. The diner has been serving Bronx residents for over 60 years. Photo taken August 2015 by Trevon Blondet/Bronx Photo League
Tessie Polygerinos at Munchtime Diner on 170th St. between Jerome Avenue & Townsend Avenue. Her husband, Laki, has owned the diner since the 1960s. The diner has been serving Bronx residents for over 60 years.
Photo taken August 2015 by Trevon Blondet/Bronx Photo League

Residents, workers, business owners, and community based organizations have already banded together to combat this situation bringing hundreds of people from all walks of life together.

This past Sunday we were able to take a sneak peek at the body of work that has emerged from The Bronx Photo League’s first major exhibition and the images were breathtaking in scope.

This intrepid group of socially conscious photographers and documentarians have captured a moment in time that is at a critical juncture in the future of one of the last remaining working class enclaves of industry, factories, and small shops in New York City.

It is a reflection of what we stand to lose in The Bronx and New York City as the specter of gentrification begins to look over our borough. We’ve already witnessed the cleansing of many New York City neighborhoods where the working and middle class along with the poor have been wiped out.

New York City was built on the backs of such communities and immigrant populations and now it’s threatened to be erased for future populations that do not even exist.

The images in this upcoming exhibition are also timeless and transcendental. Many of them look like they could have very well been taken decades ago or even in other countries. They cross ethnic and cultural barriers uniting as one.

Cesar Vaez at J.D. Auto Glass at 2195 Jerome Avenue. Cesar, the manager, emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx when he was 14-years-old. Now 25-years-old, Cesar supports his family, including two children, from his wages at J.D. Auto Glass. Photo taken August 2015 by Edwin Torres/Bronx Photo League
Cesar Vaez at J.D. Auto Glass at 2195 Jerome Avenue. Cesar, the manager, emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx when he was 14-years-old. Now 25-years-old, Cesar supports his family, including two children, from his wages at J.D. Auto Glass.
Photo taken August 2015 by Edwin Torres/Bronx Photo League

Making this exhibition even more poignant is that all photographers shot using film and developed them at dark room in The Bronx Documentary Center—something which the younger generation of photographers didn’t have experience in necessarily and the BDC was able to help under the tutelage of its founder Michael Kamber.

Even the exhibition space is special as it won’t be at the Bronx Documentary Center where exhibitions are typically held but will be inside a muffler shop on Jerome Avenue, specifically Vasquez Muffler.

The space lends itself perfectly to this exhibition, the story, and plight of these people faced with the prospect of displacement if upzoning does occur.

It adds an extra layer and dimension to the exhibition bringing the very images alive where you can feel the blood, sweat, and tears of decades of the hard work of immigrant populations trying to achieve the “American Dream”.

We typically don’t announce exhibitions or events this far out in advance but considering the great importance of the subject matter, we felt it necessary to get the word out as soon as possible.

Jerome Avenue Workers Project
Photo Exhibition
BRONX PHOTO LEAGUE – BRONX DOCUMENTARY CENTER

OPENING RECEPTION
Saturday, October 3, 2015 5-8PM
Vasquez Muffler
1275 Jerome Avenue, Bronx, NY 10452
#4 train to 167th Street
(please note this is not at the BDC’s gallery)
Free and open to all

ON VIEW
October 3-18, 2015
Monday-Saturday 4–7PM
Sundays 11AM-2PM

The exhibition features the works of Bronx Photo League members:

Ed Alvarez
Trevon Blondet
David “Dee” Delgado
Melissa Bunni Elian
Jesus Emmanuel
Giacomo Francia
Michael Kamber
Netza Moreno
Heriberto Sanchez
Jonathan Santiago
Rhynna M. Santos
Adi Talwar
Berthland Tekyi-Berto
Edwin Torres
Elias Williams
Osaretin Ugiagbe

Please mark your calendars for this important event.

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