BRONX SENIOR PHOTO LEAGUE
YEAR-END EXHIBITION 2021
Virginia Alicea | Esther Anaya | Virgilio Carballo | Elena Farciert | Margaret Floyd | Teresa Guzman | Lidia Maria Isaac De Mota | Deborah Ledeatte | Maria Meza | Maria Michel | Ninfa Nuñez | Adela Paredes | Carmen Rodriguez | Hortensia Santana | Joyce Slaughter | Vivian Valentin | Maxima Valerio | Mildred Vega
The Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) proudly presents the 2021 Year-End Exhibition of the Bronx Senior Photo League (BSPL), a free documentary photography program for older adults in the Bronx. Beginning in the fall of 2020, students between the ages of 61 through 81, from the Borinquen Court Mitchel Senior Center and Kips Bay Castle Hill Senior Center, attended weekly virtual classes to learn the art of digital photography.
This year’s exhibition, #SeniorLivesMatter, reveals the intimate lives of older adults in a COVID-19 world. The pandemic exposed how older adults were not only vulnerable to illness but also in danger of becoming invisible. The work in this exhibition reflects their resistance to both, a documentation of how they coped with their heightened fear and isolation through the creative outlet of photography.
New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) senior centers remained closed in the fall of 2020, requiring classes to be held virtually. The first obstacle was to get students online; both NYCHA and the BDC delivered tablets to those who needed them. Despite the continued challenges of internet reliability, students were able to learn how to use new cameras through remote instruction.
This year’s program was very demanding, requiring mastering not only remote meetings, but new DSLR cameras. While the new technology was intimidating for some, they proved to themselves that, by relying on their minds to problem solve, they could overcome their fears and express themselves with artistic autonomy and technological sophistication. And, despite the virtual classroom, students were still able to create a strong community. Without the physical limitations of travel, students embraced virtual field trips to Paris, France and Cairo, Egypt to learn about the history of art and photography. They even went to Broadway, enjoying a special virtual showing of Hamilton.
This pandemic reinforced the need for dedicated learning centers, teachers, and tailored programs that promote the arts for the older adult populations. It demonstrated that older adults can adapt to change, learn new technologies, and create artistic work recognized by internationally renowned publications. Through commitment to continued artistic engagement and opportunities for older adults, we can ensure that they will continue to thrive and express themselves through their unique points of view that enrich our understanding of their wisdom and resiliency.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, BSPL students created photo essays on not only their loss, but also their growth. The work was varied: some students ventured into the outside world, connecting with nature; others documented their vaccination journey; some expressed their commitment to family in a time of great familial loss; while others explored identity and internal worlds through self-portraiture. This year, their work even garnered national attention through a feature in The New York Times.