The Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) proudly presents the work of the Bronx Senior Photo League (BSPL), a free documentary photo program for older adults. Beginning in the fall of 2019 older adults, ages 60-90, from the Mitchel Senior Center and Kips Bay Castle Hill Senior Center, attended classes to learn the art of digital photography and document their everyday lives.
However, in-person classes abruptly ended on March 23, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic mandated social distancing at senior centers. This presented unique challenges and exposed the technological divide that poverty creates, especially for older adults: no reliable internet connections or computers, and smartphones to replace the professional cameras they used during regular classes – the students learned how to use the cameras on their phones and to text pictures for the first time. Lesson plans were sent out weekly by whatever method the students could manage: e-mail, text messages, or Whatsapp. Weekly individual and group calls also served as wellness check-ins. Many students felt the classes were a lifeline at a time of isolation.
Older adults in New York City suffer the highest rates of COVID-19, while the South Bronx–the poorest urban congressional district–has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in the country. The acceptance of the disproportionate loss of life among our oldest generation seems to prioritize economic health over human life.
The BSPL is a dynamic community of older adults who also face intersecting forms of oppression including ageism, racism, xenophobia and impoverishment. Through their multifaceted experiences, students produced creative and compelling work documenting their lives before and during the pandemic. Their resilience demonstrated that this generation, often forgotten and marginalized, can continue to contribute art under the most trying circumstances.
The work of the BSPL students has created a rarely seen record of seniors’ perspective on everyday life during a time of historic crisis, one of which the photographers themselves are at greatest risk.
Virtual Exhibition is on view since Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at bronxseniorhotoleague.org.
Carmen Adorno | Virginia Alicea | Juanita Alleyne | Esther Anaya | Veronica Brown | Nellie Bryant | Virgilio Carballo | Dario Diaz | Elena Farciert | Isaac Flores | Margaret Floyd | Lucille Gantt | Minerva Garcia | Teresa Guzman | Elaine Hall | Gloria Halman | Lynda Henderson | Lidia Maria Isaac de Mota | Rupert Joseph | Deborah LeDeatte | Thomas Martinez | Maria Meza | Ninfa Nuñez | Ana Ortiz | Adela Paredes | Consuelo Pizarro | Cheryl Richemond | Carmen Rodriguez | Hortensia “Penny” Santana | Joyce Slaughter | Gregory Sumlin | Phyllis Thomas | Gloria Tyler | Vivian Valentin | Mildred Vega | Carmen “Candy” Vidal | Louis Wright
BSPL Coordinator: Rhynna M. Santos
Teaching Artists: Rhynna M. Santos and Jessica Kirkham
Teaching Assistant: Gisella Dionio
Top: Gathered pink shredded paper, rubber ball, scissors and glue and made a COVID-19 virus model as shown on T.V., April 2020 © Carmen Rodriguez / BDC
Middle left: It’s been two months since we were ordered to stay at home. I’m wondering… when will it end? The clouds have changed their shapes but the sky’s still blue, so there is hope. Bronx NY. May 2020 © Margaret Floyd / BDC
Middle right: Breakfast at the kitchen window. Bronx, NY. May 12, 2020 © Elena Farciert / BDC
Bottom left: How I survived during the Coronavirus pandemic. These are various objects that I used when I was sick with COVID-19. I became my own nurse and God was the doctor. April 2020 © Carmen “Candy” Vidal / BDC
Bottom right: Carmen’s living room at NYCHA Mitchel Houses. Bronx, NY, November 2019 © Carmen Adorno / BDC
Bronx Documentary Center
614 Courtland Avenue
Bronx, NY 10451