Calidad Y Claridad – The Fine Work of En Foco : By Fred Bonilla

[photopress:lipspartedwithlowerteeth.jpg,full,centered] © Myra Greene

En Foco is an organization of Latino, African, Asian ,Native American and Pacific Islander photographers based out of Bronx, N.Y. Founded in 1974, En Foco has offered a forum to a group that have been woefully underrepresented in the fine art photography community and have helped many artists to receive proper recognition and
Exposure. Such is the case of the exhibition that has just opened at the Umbrella Arts
Gallery in New York’s East Village., featuring the works of photographers Myra Greene and Sama Alshalbi.

[photopress:EN_FOCO_3308_003.jpg,full,centered] Photo of Sama Alshabi exhibit courtesy of Fred Bonilla
Upon entering the small exhibit space and finding a spot to observe in the opening night crowd, I found myself quietly stunned by the contrast of the 2 bodies of work; the soft focused self portrait and other works done with 4×5 film by Sama Alshalbi, expressing thru dress and body form her humanistic and subtlety political viewpoints of her Palestinian-Iraqi heritage. The work in her words “negotiates the shifts between personal and family history, creating a context to understand the impact of war and exile.” Her pieces in the exhibit shows this well .

And on the other side of the room, Myra Greene used small 3 by 4 inch wet plate ambrotypes on black glass of different parts of her facial features to counter her confrontation with personal and public bigotry. Her body of work, called “Character Recognition “was a visual reaction to the self imposed question “What do people see when they look at me?” The results are stunning and quite thought provoking.
The two bodies of work seamlessly worked together to bring together the exhibit’s theme of expression through skin and body.
While the exhibit is small, it is well worth the time to seek out, and the images will linger with you well after you leave.

I found Marisol Diaz, En Foco’s Program director and for a few minutes, she explained En Foco’s work and pointed out that the resources available thru En Foco are invaluable in every step of the creative process; from portfolio review and constructive feedback of a photographer’s body of work to presentation of that body of work to publishers and galleries and all in between. Later that evening, I went to their website and found a wealth of resources, among them Nueva Luz, their “photographic journal” whose current issue featured Myra Greene’s work as well as a simple yet profoundly beautiful series of photos by Martin Weber, among others.With the supposed breakthroughs and “Obamafication “ of 21st Century America, one would think that there would be a level playing field for photographers of all races.

Yet as a latino, I’m so proud and glad that En Foco is around, offering , in my words, calidad y claridad; the opportunity for these quality photographers to shine and offering clarity of vision for their vocation and art.

[photopress:EN_FOCO_3308_012.jpg,full,centered] Photographer Sama Alshabi, En Foco Executive Director Miriam Romais,Photographer Maya Greene, En Foco Program Director Marisol Diaz and unidentified guest at the En Foco Gallery opening at The Umbrella Arts gallery.

Myra Greene & Sama Alshabi’s exhibit is at the Umbrella Arts Gallery
327 E. 9th Street, New York, N.Y. 10003 from March 1- April 5th,2008.

En Foco
1738 Hone Avenue, Bronx ,N.Y. 10461

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