Mi Barrio Spanish Coursework

Reception & Book Signing:
6:00-7:00 p.m.
North Gate Hall Courtyard

7:00-8:30 p.m.
Room 105 North Gate Hall

When Brooklyn-raised photographer Joseph Rodriguez first debuted his body of work shot in Spanish Harlem in the 1980s, it changed the face of documentary photography. Grit, elegy, celebration, pride, lurking cataclysm—all embedded in the portrait of a place and the people. Now, three decades later, Rodriguez and powerHouse Books are revisiting that groundbreaking series: unearthing huge new caches of images, and re-editing and showcasing the body of work in a beautiful, deluxe monograph, reframing the project as one that pushed beyond documentary into the realm of fine art. Over 30 years since the project began, Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the 80s finally brings this unparalleled endeavor to fruition.

Spanish Harlem, New York’s oldest barrio, is the U.S. mecca where Puerto Ricans first established themselves in the 1940s. One of America’s most vital centers of Latino culture, Spanish Harlem is home to 125,000 people, half of whom are Latino. Shot in the mid-to-late 80s, Joseph Rodriguez’s superb photographs bring us into the core of the neighborhood, capturing a spirit of a people that survives despite the ravages of poverty, and more recently, the threat of gentrification and displacement. In a now-distant landscape littered with abandoned buildings, ominous alleyways, and the plague of addiction, the residents of Spanish Harlem persevered with flamboyant style and gritty self-reliance.

The heart of the work comes from Rodriguez’s intimacy and access. The trust and familiarity he built with his subjects—repeated visits with no camera, then no photographing, then little by little, a peek here, a shot there—allowed him to transcend surface level sheen and exploitation to capture images that reveal the essence of the neighborhood and of the era. That access paired with a sharp eye for detail and composition, and the practiced and disciplined ability to find the perfect moment, led to the creation of an entirely unique and breathtaking narrative. From idyllic scenes of children playing under the sprinklers on the playground, or performing the Bomba Plena on “Old Timer’s Day,” to shocking images of men shooting up speedballs and children dying of AIDS, Rodriguez reveals a day in the life of the barrio in the 1980s.
Joseph Rodriguez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He began studying photography at the School of Visual Arts and went on to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree at New York City Technical College. He worked in the graphic arts industry before deciding to pursue photography further. In 1985 he graduated with a Photojournalism and Documentary diploma from the International Center of Photography in New York. He went on to work for Black Star photo agency, and print and online news organizations like National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Newsweek, Esquire, Stern, and New America Media. He has received awards and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Artists’ Fellowship, USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, the Open Society Institute Justice Media Fellowship and Katrina Media Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography, and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship Fund for Investigative Journalism. He has been awarded Pictures of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association and the University of Missouri, in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2002. He is the author of Spanish Harlem, part of the “American Scene” series, published by the National Museum of American Art/ D.A.P., as well as East Side Stories: Gang Life in East Los Angeles, Juvenile, Flesh Life Sex in Mexico City, and Still Here: Stories After Katrina, published by powerHouse Books. Recent exhibitions include the Hardhitta Gallery, Cologne, Germany; Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography, University of La Verne, California; Third Floor Gallery, Cardiff, Wales, UK Institute for Public Knowledge, New York, NY; Moving Walls, Open Society Institute, New York, NY; and Cultural Memory Matters, 601 Art Space, New York, NY.

Exhibit Dates: February 12 – May 1, 2018 | Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.



Transcript and Translation

Compare what Jennifer and Michael said in this role play and find out why the examiner gave Michael a higher mark.

1. ¿Cómo es tu ciudad? - What's your town like?

Jennifer says:

Mi ciudad es grande y divertida.

My city is big and interesting

Michael says:

En mi opinión mi ciudad es industrial pero bonita y muy histórica. Me parece que hay mucha cultura y movida pero hay bastante desempleo.

In my opinion my town is industrial but pretty and very historical. I think there's a lot of culture and things going on but there's quite a lot of unemployment.

2. ¿Qué se puede hacer en tu ciudad? - What is there to do in your town?

Jennifer says:

Hay discotecas, bares y se puede ir a la playa.

There are nightclubs, bars and you can go to the beach.

Michael says:

Para visitar hay el castillo y la catedral o se puede ir a la playa, y por la noche se puede salir con amigos. Para divertirse hay una gama enorme de restaurantes, bares y discotecas. Hay mucho que hacer.

Theres the castle and the cathedral to see, or you can go to the beach, and at night yuo can go out with friends. For having a good time there's a huge range of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

3. ¿Te gusta vivir allí? ¿Por qué? - Do you like to live there? Why?

Jennifer says:

No me gusta porque es una ciudad sucia y ruidosa.

I don't like it because its a dirty and noisy city.

Michael says:

En general sí me gusta vivir en Newcastle porque es una ciudad divertida. Lo mejor es que hay mucha movida, pero lo malo es que hay bastante basura.

In general yes I like to live in Newcastle because its a fun city. The best thing is that theres lots going on, but the bad thing is that theres quite a lot of rubbish.

4. ¿Qué tiempo hace en tu región? - What's the weather like in your region?

Jennifer says:

Hace mal tiempo.

The weather's bad.

Michael says:

En el invierno hace mal tiempo- es decir llueve, hace frío y hace mucho viento. Pero en verano hace sol y para mí es agradable porque no hace demasiado calor.

In winter the weather's bad, that is to say it rains, it's cold and very windy. But in summer it's sunny and I like it because it's not too hot.

5. ¿Cómo era tu región en el pasado? - What was your region like in the past?

Jennifer says:

Antes era más sucia.

Before it was dirtier.

Michael says:

Antes tenía más industria y era más sucia y había más contaminación. Ahora es más limpia pero hay bastante desempleo.

Before it had more industry and was dirtier and there was more pollution. Now its cleaner but theres quite a lot of unemployment.

6. ¿Dónde te gustaría vivir en el futuro? - Where would you like to live in the future?

Jennifer says:

Me gustaría vivir en el campo.

I'd like to live in the countryside.

Michael says:

En el futuro me gustaría vivir en la costa en España porque prefiero el clima y me gusta nadar en el mar.

In the future I'd like to live on the coast in Spain because I prefer the climate and I like to swim in the sea.

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