As the Bronx marks 2014 with the 100th anniversary of its formal separation from New York County and the 375th anniversary of the arrival of the county’s namesake, Jonas Bronck, Centro’s current art exhibit focuses tightly on that borough – showcasing the work of a noted Bronx photographer known for his images of the South Bronx.
For photographer Carlos Ortiz, his lens became a tool to shoot to tell his Bronx story in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Ortiz, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the Bronx, regularly shot photos of Bronx people and places, including those in his Longwood neighborhood. They reflect,images of the devastation in his community and the resiliency of his people.
To view his work, visit Centro’s exhibit Carlos Ortiz: Tracking the South Bronx, which runs until February 1 in the lobby of the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work, 2180 Third Avenue, at East 119th Street in East Harlem. It is free and open to the public.
The exhibit features a selection of Ortiz’s Bronx black and white photos and is a snapshot of the extensive collection Centro has of his work. Ortiz donated his collection to Centro before he died in 2008 as a way to ensure that this history is preserved and shared. The photos selected come from one box in the collection. His pictures are noted for their somber portrayal of the desolation of the decaying landscape of the South Bronx.
Centro is showcasing Ortiz’s work at this time because his collection recently was processed (arranged, described and properly housed) so it is more easily accessible for researchers and others interested in his work and the history it records.
The completion of full processing was made possible because the Centro Library and Archives was awarded a grant from the Documentary Heritage Program/ New York State Archives/NYSED to aid in the arrangement and description of Ortiz’s documents. Centro has seen great interest in the Ortiz collection.
The materials in the collection consist of his personal files, correspondence, clippings, flyers, slides and photographs dating from the 1970s through the early 2000s. The strength of the collection is the vast array of print photographs, slides and negatives that document not only multiple facets of Puerto Rican life but also of grassroots politics and organizations in the community, such as The Police Athletic League and The Puerto Rican Day Parade.