Today, the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) in Melrose virtually opened its 6th Annual Photo Auction Benefit. Half of the proceeds from the sale, which is open through October 22, will fund the BDC’s exhibitions, public programming, and educational initiatives; the other 50% will benefit Bronx-based photographers, including program participants, experiencing financial stress due to COVID-19. The works on offer are valued from $100, for a pair of photobooks by Fazal Sheikh, to $9,000, for an archival silver gelatin print by Gilles Peress.
A community-oriented arts nonprofit, the Bronx Documentary Center is committed to supporting photography and photojournalism that engage with issues of social justice and themes of social change. Many of the prints and photobooks on offer echo these values as they explore topics like refugee camps, the lives of migrant workers, and the effects of climate change. Some of the works turn their lenses on the local Bronx community. Jerome Avenue Workers Project Book, a photobook of work by 18 Bronx Photo League photographers, depicts the diverse workers of Jerome Ave, who are at risk of losing their livelihoods if the area is rezoned and gentrified.
“Election” (2011), a black and white print by Turkish photographer Serkan Çolak, depicts three boys clustered in the window of the election van of Mehmet Tanhan, a Kurdish political candidate who ran for parliament. One of the boys thrusts his hands out of the window as he forms peace signs with his fingers. The image of Tanhan is printed on the car so that when the window is opened, the candidate’s head slides to the right and becomes severed from his neck—perhaps foreshadowing Tanhan’s loss of the election by a slim margin and his eventual imprisonment. It’s an eerie image that merits a second look.
Mexican photographer Mauricio Palos was in the midst of a project about Mexico’s war on drug trafficking when the story of Don Alejo — a hunter who faced off with drug traffickers — led him to develop an interest in documenting communities of hunters in the Yucatan, and particularly in Tihosuco, a town that was populated by hunters in the early 20th century after the Mexican Revolution.
“Rene and His Digital Magic” (2013) is a print that depicts a man playing cumbia in a dimly lit open-backed truck at night. Though the scene is mostly abandoned, large speakers and a string of balloons that cut across the frame suggest a celebratory occasion: a hunter’s baptism. The intimate work is a testament to the close relationship that Palos developed with these communities as he documented their lives.
Michael Kamber, photojournalist and co-founder and executive director of BDC, told Hyperallergic: “The BDC’s annual auction always plays a crucial role supporting free programs for our community. This year, with so many Bronx photographers affected by COVID-19, we will be sharing the proceeds with them, enabling them to keep making important and creative work.”
The Bronx Documentary Center’s virtual Photo Auction Benefit opens on October 8, and will run until October 22.