A photo exhibition that ran at Mitchel Houses in Port Morris through June 28 had two messages: One was that local residents don’t have to leave their own neighborhood to meet interesting people.
The second takeaway: You’re only as young as you feel.
At the opening of the annual Bronx Senior Photo League’s photo exhibition at the Mitchel Houses Senior Center on June 21, photographer and teacher Rhynna M. Santos reminded older Latina and African American women that their ideas have value and talent, and that tapping into their abilities is a revolutionary act.
The exhibition marked the end of a yearlong photography training program for 13 residents of the Mitchel Houses Senior Center. The portraits they had taken hung from the rails of a Mitchel Houses walkway for a week, during which time the public had gathered to view them.
“Talent is ageless” said Santos, adding that ageism causes many to underestimate older adults. “That is damaging. Older adults are full of experience and want to really involve themselves.”
The annual exhibition, an initiative launched by the Bronx Documentary Center, aims to teach the tricks and tools of photography to about a dozen adult students each year, while also serving as an outlet for them to share their observations of the neighborhoods they know so well. Judy Brandon, a participant and pioneer member of the Mitchel Senior Center Bronx Senior Photo League, presented portraits of her choir group at the Greater Refuge Temple in Manhattan. In one of her photos Brandon showed members of her choir group lined up and dressed in white gowns with bright red headdresses while the choir director, whom Brandon described as a stern woman, is in a black blouse and long red skirt.
“It eliminates a lot of negativity about the community,” said Brandon.
Teresa Guzman took portraits of the old Bronx Borough court house and the 42nd Precinct station house in Melrose, showing their past and present. She said she was inspired to show her old neighborhood after a speaker addressed her class on the history of the South Bronx.
“It brought very beautiful memories,” said Guzman, recalling with a wide smile how she was inspired to document her old neighborhood. Guzman, who is originally from Ecuador, has lived at Mitchel Houses since moving from Melrose.
Another participant, Carmen Adorno, trained her lens on nature, showcasing the early morning sun casing its rays inside of her 15th floor apartment at Mitchel Houses. One of her photos showed the skyline pierced by high-rise buildings. Another showed the sun setting over the Harlem River.
Mary Holloway, a 40-year resident of Mitchel Houses, said the diversity of the photos displayed at the exhibition show how much her neighborhood has changed. The exhibition, she added, provides residents an opportunity to socialize.
This is the third edition of the Bronx Senior Photo League exhibition at the Mitchel Senior Center, which is also held in Castle Hill and Tremont. The Bronx Documentary Center in Melrose will display many of the photos in the near future, for those who may have missed the week-long exhibition in June.