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Joe Conzo: Cold Crush Brothers' Photo Shooting Session
Digital B&W Print on Canson Lustre 310g/sm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP
About the Photographer:
Joe Conzo was born in the Bronx during an era of great upheaval, when the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway was nearing its end, having destroyed the communities that lay in its path, and condemning those parts of the borough around it to social and economic decline. The apocalyptic landscapes of urban devastation, and the high criminality associated to it are emblematic of that era.
And yet, out of what looked like an urban war zone, the city’s youth began to pick up the pieces, and, out of the desolation around them, began to build their own road out of it. Realizing that the state was not going to do anything positive for them, their survival instincts eventually kicked in; and out of the gang culture, the drugs, and the sheer nihilism that had reigned for a while over much of the borough, new and greener shoots were beginning to break through.
Joe Conzo’s cultural capital, and that of his peers, was probably key to his survival and his blossoming during those harsh years; grandson of Dr. Evelina López Antonetty, a political activist who played a huge role in developing educational programmes for Puerto Rican children, and son of Joe Conzo Snr., who was in the thick of the huge Latin music scene of that bridged those decades; hanging with all the main players of that era, and having been the biographer of Tito Puente.
While studying at the Agnes Russell School on the campus of Columbia University, he discovered photography, the medium that would enable him to document what went on around him; from the world of latin culture through his father’s connections, to the collision of art forms that would later be called Hip Hop; a word that eclipses the sum of its parts.
Having lived many ups and downs in the eighties, to a rebirth of sorts, Joe Conzo went on to become a qualified medical nurse, then worked 27 years for the New York City Fire Department, being among the first responders on 9/11. At some point along the way, he was reunited with the camera, and began shooting again…
Whether as the photographer of rap crew The Cold Crush Brothers, a hugely influential group of MCs from the early days, or just a boy from the Bronx who had a camera and curious eyes, Joe Conzo’s photos provided reference material to Henry Chalfant ‘s documentary “From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale.”, and were documented in a book called “Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop”.
His negatives have been digitalised and archived at Cornell University, providing a unique and indispensable resource for those wishing to research the those eras.