An auto body shop on Jerome Avenue might not seem like the most likely place for an art exhibition. But for about two weeks, Vasquez Muffler at 1275 Jerome Ave. will be home to photographers from Jerome Avenue Workers Project, a collaboration between the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) and the Bronx Photo League.
Michael Kamber, the founder of BDC and the show’s curator, said the Bronx Photo League chose to focus on Jerome Avenue because the city is studying a potential rezoning along two miles of the street. Today, small stores, manufacturing and auto body repair shops dominate the street. But rents have been rising, and rezoning could further change the face of the neighborhood.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to document the community that is there and possibly follow through as the community does or does not change,” Mr. Kamber explained. “People are talking about gentrification and development, but we haven’t seen much documentation. The Bronx Photo League wants to change that.”
The Bronx Photo League consists of 18 Bronx-based photographers who are committed to documenting their borough. Most of them, like Rhynna Santos, grew up in the Bronx.
“I love my borough and I think that our borough is full of history, survival and strength,” Ms. Santos said. “I want to bring light to that, what people ignore.”
Ms. Santos said her goal in the project was to highlight the hard-working women on Jerome Avenue, because the manufacturing facilities and auto shops are mostly staffed by men. She recalled going into the 99 Cents USA store at East 170th Street and seeing the cashier, a woman named Isabel Kahlise.
“I just thought she has so much energy and charisma with her customers. And she had beautiful eyeliner and tattoos, and she smiled at me right away,” she said. “I photographed and interviewed her between customers.”
Ms. Kahlise told her she came to New York from Puerto Rico 24 years ago, and that her son has been able to get a good education in the city. She also explained that the store could be in danger of closing due to rising rents.