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Culture & Communication

The ‘60s: Decade of Change, Benedict J. Fernandez at the BDC

Opening Reception: Friday May 2, 6-9PM
On View: May 2 – July 20, 2014 

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Benedict J. Fernandez, (b. 1936), a Puerto Rican and Italian photographer from East Harlem, captured some of the most powerful and emotionally-resonant moments of America during the tumultuous 1960s. This exhibition comprises vintage prints and never before seen work prints from the archives of an underappreciated master.

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The Sixties were arguably the years of greatest social change in American history. The country entered the decade full of idealism and hope – the Civil Rights movement was gathering steam and a charismatic president rallied the nation to explore a New Frontier. America limped out ten years later, devastated by assassinations, divided over the Vietnam War, cities aflame in unrest. Through it all were the movements: Civil Rights, Black Power, Students for a Democratic Society, pro and anti-Vietnam War, nascent gay rights, and more.

One can track these movements – and our nation’s trajectory – through Fernandez’s tough and revealing photos; he was perpetually in the thick of the action with a 35mm Leica, his wide-angle lens capturing it all on Tri-X. He worked with the eye of a poet and the hands of the dockworker he once had been. Fernandez’s photos are brash and confrontational, capturing the mood of the times and his own hardscrabble upbringing.

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Ben Fernandez met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a 1967 march in Central Park. They became friends; Fernandez was one of few photographers to have access to Dr. King’s home. The resulting photos show the civil rights leader in intimate moments with his children and wife, Coretta. Fernandez’s photos are among the most personal ever taken of Dr. King.

In the 1960s Fernandez founded the Photo Film Workshop at the Public Theater, educating a diverse group of inner-city children, including Ángel Franco, who became a Pulitzer Prize winner at The New York Times. Fernandez then created the photography program at Parsons/The New School, making it a national model. Fernandez’s educational innovations helped change photography from a common craft to a respected profession and changed the lives of generations of students.

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All pictures credit: © Benedict J. Fernandez

1. Solidarity march honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after his assassination. Memphis, Tennessee, April 6, 1968.
2. Pro-Vietnam War protest, circa 1968.
3. Dr. Martin Luther King with his daughter Bonnie at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Atlanta, Georgia, February 1968.
4. The National Guard on the streets of Newark, aftermath of the riots. The Newark riots lasted 6 days and left 26 dead. Summer 1967.


Founded in 2011, the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) is a non-profit gallery and educational space devoted to documentary projects from around the globe. Located on the ground floor of a recently revitalized building in the South Bronx, the BDC aims to create an engaging environment for local and international photojournalists, artists, filmmakers, critics and educators committed to innovative methods of non-fiction storytelling.


Bronx Documentary Center, 614 Courtlandt Avenue, Bronx, NY 10451 | info@bronxdoc.org | 718-993-3512

Subway: 2/5 train to 3rd Ave-149th Street. BDC is located three blocks from the station. Bus: BX2, BX6, BX13, BX32, BX41.
Car: Parking lot available adjacent to building.

Gallery Hours
The Bronx Documentary Center is open to the public Thursday to Friday, 3 pm to 7 pm and Saturday to Sunday 1pm to 5pm. School groups are welcome by appointment.


Media Contact: Myrtille Beauvert – +1 347 295 7694 – communications@bronxdoc.org

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