Visually Speaking: The People’s Photographer

The Brooklyn Public Library presents Visually Speaking: The People’s Photographer

Visually Speaking: The People’s Photographer

The Brooklyn Public Library presents Visually Speaking: The People’s Photographer bringing together Joseph Rodriguez and Jamel Shabazz, two important and influential documentary photographers, in a conversation led by Noelle Flores Theard of the Magnum Foundation on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at 7:30 pm in the Dweck Center of the Central Library in Park Slope.

Joseph Rodriguez’s long awaited new book, Spanish Harlem, explores the Community Photographer’s role in capturing the day to day interactions of residents of this acclaimed section of Harlem.

While Rodriguez was documenting ‘El Barrio’ in the 1980’s, Jamel Shabazz was photographing the parts of Brooklyn that have become legendary in his images.

Different in style but complimentary in their pursuit of place, these two photographers have created a body of work that tells the story of New York City, from kids playing stickball to families in their living rooms. Now for the first time, these “Brothers of the Lens” will discuss their work as part of the Visually Speaking series.

The Visually Speaking series is curated by Photographer Terrence Jennings for the Brooklyn Public Library.

Noelle Flores Théard is a photographer, educator, and arts administrator. She is currently a Programs Associate at the Magnum Foundation, a nonprofit that expands creativity and diversity in documentary photography. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, an MA in African Diaspora Studies from Florida International University, and an MFA in Photography from Parsons The New School for Design. Noelle taught in the Art History and African Diaspora programs at Florida International University in Miami and was the photography coordinator for photography at YoungArts, a foundation that supports young artists in ten different artistic disciplines. In addition she worked for many years as a freelance photographer for the Miami Herald. She is a cofounder of FotoKonbit, a non-profit that teaches photography in Haiti in order to provide Haitians with training and opportunities to tell their own stories through photography.

Jamel Shabazz was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of fifteen, he picked up his first camera and started to document his peers. Inspired by photographers Leonard Freed, James Van Der Zee, and Gordon Parks, he was marveled with their documentation of the African American community. In 1980 as a concerned photographer with a clear vision, he embarked on a mission to extensively document various aspects of life in New York City, from youth culture to a wide range of social conditions. Due to its spontaneity and uniqueness, the streets and subway system became backdrops for many of his photographs.

Shabazz says his goal is to contribute to the preservation of world history and culture. In the past 10 years he has had over two dozen solo exhibitions; “Men of Honor”, “A Time Before Crack”, “Pieces of a Man”, “Represent”, When Two Worlds Meet”, “Back in the Days,” and “Seconds of my Life,” which have been shown from Argentina to The Netherlands, England, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and throughout the United States. An even longer list of group showings include Art Basel; Miami, the Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum, the Contact Photo Festival, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Duke University, and the Adidas Photo Festival in Ethiopia.

Joseph Rodriguez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He began studying photography at the School of Visual Arts and went on to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree at New York City Technical College. He worked in the graphic arts industry before deciding to pursue photography further.

In 1985 he graduated with a Photojournalism and Documentary diploma from the International Center of Photography in New York. He went on to work for Black Star photo agency, and print and online news organizations like National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Newsweek, Esquire, Stern, and New America Media. He has received awards and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Artists’ Fellowship, USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, the Open Society Institute Justice Media Fellowship and Katrina Media Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography, and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship Fund for Investigative Journalism. He has been awarded Pictures of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association and the University of Missouri, in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2002.

He is the author of Spanish Harlem, part of the “American Scene” series, published by the National Museum of American Art/ D.A.P., as well as East Side Stories: Gang Life in East Los Angeles, Juvenile, Flesh Life Sex in Mexico City, and Still Here: Stories After Katrina, published by powerHouse Books.

Recent exhibitions include the Hardhitta Gallery, Cologne, Germany; Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography, University of La Verne, California; Third Floor Gallery, Cardiff, Wales, UK Institute for Public Knowledge, New York, NY; Moving Walls, Open Society Institute, New York, NY; and Cultural Memory Matters, 601 Art Space, New York, NY.


Conveniently located at BPL's Central Library on Grand Army Plaza, the fully accessible, 189-seat Dweck auditorium provides a comfortable space in which to enjoy the library's rich and wide-ranging schedule of free public programs. The Dweck features literary series, author talks, public affairs and humanities programs, film screenings, chamber music concerts, pop and jazz music, as well as programs for children. Acoustically well balanced and with unobstructed sightlines, this intimate auditorium has been attracting ever-larger audiences since it opened in the fall of 2007.