Picture us: Melrose poses for portraits

The Bronx Documentary Center held its fifth annual Valentine’s Day Portraits event on Feb. 14, drawing residents looking to take advantage of the offer to have their photos taken by a professional photographer to commemorate the special day.

By Annie Nova. A child poses for her Valentine's Day photo at the Bronx Documentary Center.
By Annie Nova. A child poses for her Valentine’s Day photo at the Bronx Documentary Center.

Bronx Documentary Center holds fifth annual Valentine’s Day event

While some people prefer to stay behind closed doors on Valentine’s Day, others had a chance to step in front of a camera and pose for their portraits at The Bronx Documentary Center this weekend. The Center held its fifth annual Valentine’s Day Portraits event on Feb. 14, drawing residents who took advantage of an offer to have their photos taken by a professional photographer to commemorate the special day.

“It’s good to look at yourselves and see the bond,” said Krystal Snow, 26, who came with her girlfriend of two and a half years. “When we look at our photographs, we see what was going on then, and how we’ve changed,” she said.

Michael Kamber, the founder of the Bronx Documentary Center, decided to bring in professional photographers to snap profiles of Bronxites on special occasions like Halloween and Mother’s Day, in answer to a question he once asked himself: What do people need in their lives?

“People need photographs of their family growing up,” Kamber said, pointing out that for many in the neighborhood, their visits to the Documentary Center mark the first time they have ever set foot in a gallery. “They ask me, ‘What am I supposed to do? Is it expensive?’ Now people can watch their kids grow up.”

Each visitor gets one free portrait; additional photographs are $5, to cover the cost of ink and paper.

By Fanta Diop / Bronx Documentary. Father and son Nilda Villanova and Edgar Cabrera
By Fanta Diop / Bronx Documentary. Father and son Nilda Villanova and Edgar Cabrera

“For today, he’s my Valentine,” said Nilda Villanova, 51, pointing to her son, because her husband is in Ecuador. Edgar Cabrera, 27, said of his father, “I’m here in his spirit.” The two had just come from church and planned to go to the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum later in the day.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs,” said Samantha Ramos, 16, hugging her boyfriend of one year in front of the camera. “But we’ve pushed through – you know, it’s teenage love.”

The backdrop,—-a canvas with a giant heart floating in space spray-painted on it—-did not attract just family members and couples.

“He’s my Valentine,” said Luis Gonzalez, 58, holding up his black dog, Little Man. “When I first got him, he was all bones, and I was lonely and lived by myself. I saved him, and he saved me.”

For Michael Brown, 55, the spotlight was just too irresistible.

“As a kid, I always wanted to be a singer or an actor. Unfortunately, the drugs took all my dreams away,” he said, “But now that I don’t do drugs, I’ve been in three movies.”

“I’m hoping someone might see my picture today and say, ‘Hey I could use him.’”

Leon Roberts, 56, came to the event alone, saying that he preferred to be single because “there are no headaches.” But when he was handed his portrait, he said, “It came out beautiful. Now I might just get a Valentine.”

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