Friday, April 18, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Ricky Flores









South Bronx is a 'Refreshing Adventure' for this Boricua Photographer

Black and white images depict the story of Puerto Ricans living among the South Bronx rubble back in the day. Photos tell the stories of young people riding trains plagued with graffiti and playing on lots full of debris.
Despite all the poverty and the urban decay all around them, many of these people, many of them young men and women, are seen smiling, dancing and having a good time in the photos captured by Ricky Flores.
Today, the South Bronx is not the same as the one captured in Flores' photos. It surely isn't as rundown as it was back then. The South Bronx has certainly changed for the better even though it is still considered one of the poorest congressional districts in the country.
Yet, those images of the Bronx of yesterday can and will probably never be forgotten.
While many young people didn't survive, many others not only survived but helped bring the South Bronx back. One such survivor is Flores who became a professional photographer, documenting, among other things, the story of Puerto Ricans in New York.
Puerto Rico Sun asked Flores, who is also known as rigglord and is a contributing photographer to the Puerto Rico Sun and Bronx Latino photo groups at flickr.com, to share some of his thoughts on the photos he has been posting on his site lately. This photojournalist has been uploading many of his old images of the South Bronx. The majority of the photos currently on the site were taken during the 1980's. Flores says that the photos mainly focus on Puerto Ricans in New York, specifically in the South Bronx. Flores is drawing a whole new worldwide audience to view images of the old Bronx, which he describes as adventurous, nostalgic and painful.
The photos in a way are a reflection of his journey in life as a Puerto Rican, Bronxite, New Yorker, and photographer.
Here is what Flores had to say in his own words:
The photos that you see streaming (at his photo site at www.flickr.com/photos/rickyflores) were started from a series of photographs exploring the life of being a Puerto Rican in New York called Ser Puertorriqueño, a search for my own identity as a Puerto Rican. It spun off as a permanent installation called "License to Dream," which you can get details about at www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/html/panyc/flores.shtml .
Looking at them now is a refreshing adventure, tinged with nostalgia and pain. Many of the photographs show friends who died from drug abuse or of AIDS. Given the amount of time that has passed since I took them, they now have a historical value. Images that I would have never have shown then, now have a value simply because of what they show and the location of where they were taken. The photos I am streaming now are images of the South Bronx.
As time goes on, you will see more work of my coverage of demonstrations and riots that were centered around issues of racism and police brutality within New York City.
Currently, I'm a photojournalist at The Journal News in Westchester County and sit as a member of the Board of Advisors for En Foco (www.enfoco.org/ ) a Bronx-based non-profit organization dedicated to cultural diversity in photography.


To check out more of Flores' images, visit his photo site at www.flickr.com/photos/rickyflores. It is worth visiting. -- Clarisel Gonzalez

(photos by Ricky Flores)
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