Ricky Flores, of Puerto Rican descent, was born in New York City and raised on the streets of the South Bronx. In 1980, with the small inheritance he received after the death of his father he bought a 35mm camera in his senior year in high school. It started a journey of self-discovery and the documentation of life on the streets in the South Bronx and the Puerto Rican community living there as seen through his eyes.
When Ricky Flores started taking pictures as a high school senior in 1980, he did what a lot of young photographers did: he photographed his friends, family and neighbors. He captured giddy, even goofy moments, of dancers in the park, teenagers on stoops and costumed children on Halloween.
In the South Bronx.
His neighborhood was no stranger to cameras. But as he got older, Mr. Flores was bothered by how other photographers swooped into his Longwood neighborhood to make clichéd images that plumbed the depths of their preconceptions.
That sentiment guided his photography, which went from hobby to obsession. His images showed the full range of experience and emotion in Longwood — the same neighborhood that had been home decades earlier to Colin Powell. He shot the fires and those who fell to drugs, of course. But he also captured everyday images that often escaped others’ attention.
Community life in the South Bronx during the 70's and 80's was in profound transition. Block after block began to disappear because of the abandonment of buildings by landlords who systematically divested themselves from the community. All this took place under a city government and nation that turned it's back on a entire community and watched it died. Drug abuse was rampant as well as AIDS and crime. A whole generation of youths from the South Bronx was lost as a direct result of the very conditions that produce the explosive revolution of break dance, graffiti and Hip-Hop that continues to influence music and culture world wide today.
In 1981, Flores attended Empire State College, where he began formalized training in photojournalism, and received a degree in 1985. During his college years, he began to develop some socio-political views that profoundly affected his photography.
Ricky Flores is currently a photojournalist for The Journal News in Westchester County, New York. He has a permanent installation at I.S. 206 in the Tremont section of the Bronx commissioned by the School Construction Authority, New York City Board of Education and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. He now lives in Cortlandt Manor, NY, with his wife and two sons.
Bronx native Ricky Flores captured these candid shots of life in the South Bronx during the early 80′s.
Flores started documenting life in the South Bronx after he purchased a camera with a small inheritance he received from his father in 1980. It started a journey of self-discovery born out of photographing the lives of his friends and family during one of the most turbulent times in the history of Bronx and New York City.
Ricky’s first camera was a Pentax with a 50mm lens.
All images © Ricky Flores