As a teen-ager, Joe Conzo, Jr., took intimate pictures of the Bronx music scene. He’s lived several lives in the time since.
Joe Conzo, Jr., grew up in a proud, politically engaged family of Puerto Rican New Yorkers. His father, Joe, Sr., was a historian of Latin music who was tight with the scene’s biggest stars—Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto. His grandmother was the activist Evelina López Antonetty, whose fierce work organizing on behalf of schoolchildren earned her a reputation among locals as the “Hell Lady of the Bronx.” In 1981, she spearheaded protests against the production of “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” a cop movie starring Paul Newman that many residents feared would portray their neighborhood in a poor light. Conzo, still in his teens, grabbed his camera and headed to the demonstrations, too.
A new exhibit features three Bronx-born photographers whose work explores the idea of community while challenging outdated, lingering notions.
a provocative new exhibition at the Bronx Museum of Art, “Three Photographers From the Bronx: Jules Aarons, Morton Broffman and Joe Conzo,” which opens Feb. 26. The disparate subjects of its three Bronx-born, socially conscious photographers — the civil rights movement, life outside Manhattan and community advocacy — would at first seem to have little in common.
Eight photographers captured what it meant to live in New York and call oneself Puerto Rican.
“Dia” embraces the period from the 1960s to the 1980s — when Puerto Rican New York was very much on the rise — with the work of eight photographers: Máximo Colón, Joe Conzo, Perla de León, Pablo Delano, Frank Espada, Ricky Flores, David Gonzalez (a Times colleague and frequent contributor to Lens) and Francisco Reyes II.