Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera by Wayne Lawrence

The Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow stopped by the Bronx community in July, and we are still discovering today the diverse and rich cultures that the borough has to offer!
Documentary photographer Wayne Lawrence‘s “Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera” presents a collection of images highlighting the many personalities that make up this iconic community.

Rihanna. Courtesy of Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE

“Although New York’s Bronx is considered one of the most diverse communities in America out of which many subcultures originated, such as Hip Hop and Salsa, it’s still viewed as a no man’s land by many of the city’s inhabitants. Perhaps it is a matter of simple geography that many refuse to venture to the northernmost of the city’s five boroughs or, quite possibly, it may be the Borough’s malevolent reputation lingering from its tumultuous past.”

Carlos and Shana with Keyshawn and Samara, 2010. Courtesy of Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE

“From its earliest years, the Bronx has been a hotbed of immigrant working class families, but its image has largely been defined by the urban blight of the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s when arson, drug addiction and social neglect decimated many of its neighborhoods. For the families who have called this scarred landscape home, Orchard Beach, the only beach in the borough, was and remains a treasured respite from the sweltering confines of the concrete jungle. Built in the 1930s by urban planner Robert Moses, the beach carries the stigma as being one of the worst in New York and is commonly known as Horseshit Beach or Chocha Beach.”

Jaquan, 2008. Courtesy of Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE.

“I began shooting portraits of Orchard Beach’s summertime regulars in 2005 shortly after moving to New York, realizing that the stigma attached to this oasis was largely unjustified – I felt compelled to engage with this community of working class families and colorful characters. The photographs in ‘Orchard Beach – The Bronx Riviera’ celebrate the pride and dignity of the beach’s visitors, working-class people.”

“Immediately catching the viewer’s eye is the extravagant style of many of the photographs’ subjects – a quest for identity and sense of belonging. Some individuals carry scars and markings that hint to their own personal histories, which often reflect the complex history of the borough itself. Within the gaze of those portrayed we see a community standing in defiance of popular opinion.”

Adam and Pamela, 2009. Courtesy of Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE.

“The six years I spent photographing Orchard Beach have not only given me the time and space to reflect on the importance of family and community, but also a sense of belonging and purpose. After having experienced the most profound grief when my older brother was brutally murdered, photography has not only offered me an opportunity to give a voice to a community often misunderstood but also a means of healing from the loss experienced.”

Calvin and Destiny, 2008. Courtesy of Wayne Lawrence/INSTITUTE

Visit “Orchard Beach // Wayne Lawrence” to view his feature on INSTITUTE.

Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera” will be exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts starting this October 13th, 2013-February 16th, 2014. To see the full collection anytime, visit Wayne Lawrence’s online portfolio.

“If Weegee’s iconic photographs of beachgoers focused on the crowds / in his shots, 1960s sunbathers outnumbered grains of sand on Coney Island – Mr. Lawrence seeks out individuals who catch his eye along the ‘Bronx Riviera‘.”
Sam Dolnick / New York Times

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