This year, the Bronx Documentary Center’s 7th annual auction is a virtual affair, with prints available for online bidding until 8pm on Thursday, October 21. The auction contains around 45 photographic offerings, including works by Lisa Kahane, Susan Meiselas, and Henry Chalfant, among many others.
The photos are an international array, with auction items covering subjects from as far away as South Africa, to images from the five boroughs. Repping the Bronx from decades past, “Dancers” by Joe Conzo Jr. captures the action during a 1981 dance contest at the 3rd Ave Hub. Conzo grew up in the cultural and political experiences of South Bronx community activism and New York’s Puerto Rican cultural music scene.
Photographer Trevon Blondet grew up in the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) Butler Houses in the Bronx. As a member of the Bronx Photo League, he participated in the BDC’s Claremont Illuminated Project in 2019, a collaborative documentary photography project that used artwork and programming by Bronx artists to light up underutilized public spaces in Claremont Village, another Bronx NYCHA housing development. His auction item, “Miguelito,” is a silver gelatin print shot of Miguel as he rode his bike around the neighborhood, with a snake and a cross on his neck.
Other images in the auction are staged, and in an international setting, like “Stacy Hardy” (2011) by South African photographer Pieter Hugo, from the series There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends. The dynamic contrast in the image is the result of turning digital color photographs into black and white, while manipulating specific color channels — but the result is reminiscent of Richard Avedon’s iconic portraits of oil field workers (and others) against a sharp white background. From photographer Bieke Depoorter comes an image from a dreamy psychodramatic series, Agata, torn loose from time and context.
These are just a sampling of the images on the virtual auction block this week, so photography aficionados are advised to bid while the bidding is good. From 1940s Harlem through the lens of Aaron Siskind; to Ken Lights portrait from 1990’s Mississippi; to oil fisherman off the coast of South America by Rodrigo Abd; to Taliban Prayers photographed by Victor Blue, the Bronx Documentary Center auction demonstrates the ability of photography to bridge time and space in capturing and sharing the human experience. Proceeds support BDC, whose current exhibitions include the 7th annual Women’s Film Series and the Urgency! Afghanistan group exhibition, as well as numerous engagement initiatives, including photographic leagues for junior, senior, and Spanish-speaking members of the surrounding communities.