The Voice played an important role in promoting and publishing social documentary photography. We interviewed editors and photographers on its role.
Just as the photographs of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis communicated the horrors of child labor and tenement overcrowding in the early 20th century, Voice photojournalists such as Donna Binder, Ricky Flores, Lisa Kahane, T.L. Litt, Thomas McGovern, Brian Palmer, Joseph Rodriguez, and Linda Rosier conveyed the fears, rage and struggles of the city’s marginalized communities.
Skeely Street Game, Spanish Harlem, New York, 1987. Courtesy Galerie Bene Taschen. Saturday Night Cards, Rodriguez Family Spanish Harlem, New York, 1987. In the wake of World War I, Puerto…
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Puerto Rican-American photographer Joseph Rodriguez became familiar Spanish Harlem as a child, when he traveled uptown to visit his uncle who had a candy shop in El Barrio. Like many of his generation, he fell victim to the heroin epidemic and ended up incarcerated on Rikers Island for drug possession during the early 1970s.
A new book revisits Joseph Rodriguez’s first project, a yearslong look at El Barrio, which was once the heart of New York’s Puerto Rican community.
Joseph Rodriguez was no exception: Though born and raised in Brooklyn — with detours at Rikers and a life-changing encounter with photography — he, as a teenager, liked to hang out at his uncle’s candy store and numbers spot where the streets were abuzz with music and life. Those early encounters led to a May 1990 National Geographic cover story and the most important project of his life after he spent the latter half of the 1980’s photographing El Barrio’s streets and residents in their homes and on the block.
Joseph Rodriguez grew up in Brooklyn when it was devoid of hipsters and even the city itself had a bit of a drug habit. You can hear it in his voice: a gravelly, nonstop commentary. That much has been documented, woven into the tale of a photographer known for depicting American subcultures.
Joseph Rodriguez documents the life of several immigrant families on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Family is complicated,” the photographer Joseph Rodriguez said. “That’s all.”
Mr. Rodriguez was talking about “Migrantes,” his long-term project following several immigrant families as they journeyed from rural Mexico, past the border in Arizona and on to various parts of the American South. They encounter hardship – even death – as they go on to accept menial, backbreaking jobs on farms. But they face all these challenges together, as family.
This story was introduced to me as a child, watching the men in my family go in and out of prison as I grew up. I noticed there was very little support for ex-felons as they tried to re-enter society at that time.
Years ago, Joseph Rodriguez bought a used camera and a roll of Tri-X, Sandra C. Roa reports, and began documenting marginalized families. He’s still at it.
Joseph Rodriguez, 58, is what you might call an old-school cat, a straight talker who is a bit rough around the edges. As a photojournalist, his past is his starting point and his palette.
Powerful multimedia from a methodical photojournalist
Powerful multimedia from a methodical photojournalist | RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog:
Joseph Rodriguez launched his extensive career as a documentary photographer with East Side Stories, a project examining the cultures of violence in East Los Angeles. He returned to L.A. recently to document the importance and difficulty of helping people re-enter society after incarceration. I spoke with Joe about his first foray into multimedia, and how he applied his still photography skills to a new medium.
Not one of the photographers featured on the following pages wanted to be called a hero. We sympathize: The word is immodest and certainly overused these days. Nonetheless, we can’t help but consider them heroic, and when you read their stories, we think you’ll understand why.
The photographers are:
Phil Borges, John Dugdale, Timothy Fadek, Stanley Greene, Chris Hondros, Yunghi Kim, Joseph Rodriguez, Fazal Sheikh, Brent Stirton, Hazel Thomspon
The photo above is from Stanley Greene. His book on Chechnya, Open Wound, sits on my bookshelf. It’s too powerful to go through in one sitting.