Growing up in the Bronx molded me to be the individual I am today. People associate The Bronx with gangs and violence and it’s universally considered to be a place you would not like to grow up. But the way I look at it, there is beauty in everything.
I grew up pretty fast, both because of my neighborhood and my four older brothers. Boys being boys, there would often be a “royal rumble” in my room, so I started to take photos of it with an old Polaroid camera my Dad got me. My father was into photography, but when I was around four or five years old, he was in jail for a year. My mom and I would go visit him on a long bus ride. She told me: “This is where your Dad works”. I guess she knew I wouldn’t understand the concept of jail at such a young age.
I would always bring my Dad some of my photos. Most of them were of my brothers wrestling, some were of the family dog. They always made him happy. I thought it was cool that a simple photo could make somebody smile and laugh. I realized at a young age that images evoke emotion. As I got older and experimented with photography, I began to make other people smile as well. Telling stories without a single word is one of the most appealing things to me. No matter how complex your vision, it can always be translated into a photograph.
Photography helps me see different perspectives. Having a quiet personality, it has helped me feel more comfortable talking with people: telling them about my work, letting them know why I made a certain photo or simply describing the point I had tried to capture. I love reactions to my photos; it’s the best feeling when somebody smiles or just stares, clueless, trying to figure out technically, how I made it.
My Dad passed away from cancer when I was 16 years old and that really changed things for me. It made me appreciate life more and recognize that our time here is limited. Being exposed to the danger and poverty of my neighborhood also made me appreciate the basic things in life. It encouraged me to not waste my talent and to try to take up Gandhi’s challenge: “Be the change you want to see in this world”.
Teenagers are faced with a harsh reality nowadays. I want to make a change, starting in my community. I want to give teenagers a resource besides school where they can focus their talents. My goal is to create an after school program for teenagers who are interested in art: Drawing, Photography, Cinematography, Sculpting, and more. I want to help kids who are less fortunate than I was. Whether it’s with one kid or one hundred kids, I’m determined to have an impact.
In this world I feel everybody is an artist, they just have to find their medium.