"Beyond Grand Street": Photographs by Régina Monfort
Central Library, Grand Lobby
In the Artist's Words
When I first entered the barrio beyond Grand Street in late 1994, I carried with me a naïve mental image of Latin New York that came from the movie West Side Story, which I saw as a child in France. I certainly found a vibrant culture. But I also found adolescents whose lives were -- more often than not -- disrupted by loss and hardship. These are teenagers who have had to grow up very fast, too fast, and must learn to be tough in order to survive. Their trust is invested in the language of Hip-Hop, which, they understandably feel, describes their world in an authoritative voice.
The neighborhood may be the only world where many of them can function. There, their self-created social codes prevail, protecting their prestige, authority, and pride. Surviving -- much less succeeding -- outside these boundaries is not always an option.
It is not the physical violence of the streets that I have chosen to depict. These images are simple observations, records of my encounters with young people whose lives have moved me.
Ricky is both the first person I photographed and someone who has remained at the heart of my work. Ricky and his family are to be credited for my initial acceptance into the neighborhood as a photographer. Over the years my determination to work with the boys and girls who allowed me into their lives has continued to deepen, along with my belief in their uniqueness and in the authenticity of our interactions. Today, more than ever, I am convinced that it is important to tell their stories.
From Grand Street to Lindsay Park, my lens has found hope and frustration. I have been asked, "Why are you here? Why are you interested in our lives? What is there to see? Nothing here is beautiful!" These photographs are my answer.
This project is supported in part by a grant from the New York Community Trust.
Régina Monfort - Bio
Born in France and schooled in photography in Belgium and New York, Monfort honed her skills in the studios of such icons as Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Her talent for rendering the character of her subjects in with a sense of dignity in intimate, moving images is showcased in this exhibition.
Monfort's work has been exhibited extensively at venues including the Soros Open Society Institute, NYC ("Moving Walls", 2001-2002); the Brooklyn Museum of Art ("New Acquisitions", 2001), The Museum of the City of New York ("New York Now", 2000), and The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT ("The Persistence of Photography in American Portraiture", 2000). She attended the Brussels School of Photography in Belgium and Hunter College in the City of New York and is the recipient numerous awards and grants, including a New York State Council of the Arts BACA regrant.