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My love affair with the Bronx started when I was a little girl. Like so many Puerto Ricans, my siblings and I would make the expected pilgrimage to New York during summer break to visit our grandparents. My most vivid memories were of riding the subway and being astonished by the gigantic skyscrapers. We didn’t have anything that resembled that back in Puerto Rico. I eventually moved to the Bronx full-time in high school where I attended St. Raymond’s Academy for Girls. There I befriend amazing girls who took me under their wing and taught me all things Bronx. They tried their best to make me less nerdy by teaching me how to dress and freestyle. This was a magical time for me. Everything around me was stimulating, layered with complexity and beautiful. Here you had to be quick, funny and strong. After high school I was fortunate to do some extensive traveling. I have been to 14 countries, experienced diverse cultures and languages. But what has been the same, no matter what part of the world I have been to, is how people react when I answer one simple question: “Where are you from?” When I responded “the Bronx,” I always got a negative reaction. This experience inspired me to photograph the Bronx differently.
My photo project, Bronx Elevation, is a reaction to the mainstream media’s negative representation of the Bronx. The play of light and angularity is important in my photography as it demonstrates the grandeur of the Bronx’s urban landscape not commonly seen. As a Bronx resident my relationship with the borough has shaped my work. Artistically I want to give back by moving away from the stereotypical, one-dimensional interpretation of the Bronx and its people. With my photography I hope to elevate the viewers perception of the Bronx and document its existing beauty. – Rhynna Santos, 2015