Photographer Ricky Flores, born and raised in The Bronx during our most tumultuous times had a front row seat to what was happening—along with his camera.
Ricky’s work from those times are not just of the devastation that happened but the humanity that was present and how alive the areas were with people, culture, and art despite all of that.
Decades later and the advent of the internet into the mainstream, his photography was available to the larger audience of the web and this is where 8 years ago 2 graffiti artists from Brazil, Ananda Nahu and Izolag, became so enthralled and connected to the images that they began to use them as templates for creating beautiful murals in Brazil.
Once Ricky got wind of this, conversations began to happen between the 3 which at first was more about the fact that his images were being used without his permission but once he heard their story and how they loved all that the South Bronx represented to them (and in many ways shaped their artistic careers), a friendship between this unlikely trio began to blossom.
8 years after their first contact, this friendship turned into a collaboration and Ananda and Izolag came and stayed in The Bronx for one month this past summer and created a series of murals across Mott Haven and Hunts Point using iconic photographs by Ricky Flores as their inspiration thanks to Casita Maria and their sponsorship for this endeavor.
During their stay they also had an exhibition at the Bronx Arts Space where they showed some of the portraits they had done and even tagged up two of the walls in the gallery.
Each time they were ready to throw up a new mural we would run to that location to document the process, something to me which was fascinating to see how they both worked in tandem or separately.
During a chat with Izolag, he said something very powerful. I asked how did it feel to be in The Bronx doing what he loved in a place that he admired so much.
Izolag told us it was a bit bittersweet because The Bronx is the birthplace of such a movement with graffiti yet he didn’t realize the amount of red tape one has to go through now to express themselves through the art form and even now are you really expressing yourself if you have to get permission and approvals of what you’re putting up?
And it’s true for the most part you don’t have this great freedom of expression that you once did.
By the time Ananda and Izolag were done leaving their mark in the Bronx using Ricky’s photography as inspiration, they had been embraced by the community during their month long project.
They brought the people in Ricky’s photographs alive once again and for a wider audience to experience in an entirely different way.
It’s a great feeling when you have international artists come to our borough to show respect to the millennia old craft that was honed in The Bronx in modern times and set the world on fire as a form of expression.
It’s even better to see it as a collaboration with one of our borough’s own and to know that Ricky’s photography has had such a deep impact across the globe. ‘Faces From The Block’, as the residency and exhibition is called, did just that.
Click the gallery below to check out some of the works they left in our borough as well as their exhibition at Bronx Art Space.