New York Photo Review
Volume 5 Issue 6 February 11 to 17, 2014

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Summer in the City
Wayne Lawrence
Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera
Mohammad Chowdhury

Photo by Wayne Lawrence . Source: Wayne Lawrence

One of the beauties of living in New York City is being a part of its cultural melting pot. Everyone has their own story yet they share a common goal, getting a piece of the coveted American dream. As with most dreams, first comes anticipation then comes anxiety. Our innate fear of alienation creeps in and we begin to fear the differences in culture, tradition, and most importantly, language. And that is when New York City becomes that much more appealing. With neighborhoods like Little Italy or Chinatown, every ethnicity has carved itself a niche someplace in the city where they feel at home. Being in these places reminds us of being back home. One such place is Orchard Beach in the Bronx, the key focus of the Wayne Lawrence exhibit currently showing at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Photo by Wayne Lawrence . Source: Wayne Lawrence

Often called the Puerto Rican Riviera because of the neighborhood's dominantly Puerto Rican residents, Orchard Beach plays host to an eclectic group of immigrants, not just Puerto Ricans, and in photographs taken from 2007 to 2011, Lawrence showcases some of its denizens. It’s diverse visitors allowed Lawrence to capture various faces and personalities one might pass by on their day-to-day life in the city. However, these are not the angry, frustrated or stoic faces seen on crowded streets or packed trains. These are portraits of people who have left behind all their sorrows and struggles to enjoy a day at the beach. The whole exhibition amounts to a celebration of a much-needed escape from the New York City hustle.

Photo by Wayne Lawrence . Source: Wayne Lawrence

In attendance are husbands and wives, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends, brothers, sisters: each their own individual self and all taking a break from chasing the American dream. Lawrence's portraits presents his subjects in the bright light of the sun with beautiful vibrant colors that give his subjects an almost ethereal quality. Most of the subjects pose for the camera, confidently displaying their pride in themselves. Presented against the backdrop of the beach, there is earnestness in each of their faces and true sense of appreciation for their personal ties with parents, children, spouses, siblings or friends.

Although the people in the photograph smile for the camera, you get a feeling that Lawrence simply made them aware of his presence, and then just photographed them in the activity that they were entrenched in at that moment.

His portraits truly evoke your own memories of a fun day at the beach with the soothing sound of waves and children's laughter. You feel the soft warm sand between your naked toes as you bask in the sun: a perfect escape on a hot summer day.

Wayne Lawrence
Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
Bronx         Map

718 681 6000

Sunday, October 13 to
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Hours: Thurs, Sat, Sun, 11 to 6; Fri, 11 to 8

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat