When I was doing research for my interview with Ricky Flores, I was moved by his story. Flores has a long photographic history. And he has been able to capture much of that history. Especially, of those turbulent times in the South Bronx. But what moved me most was Ricky’s near death experience.
The experience refocused, him, and reminded Flores the important of loved ones. As well as the necessity of living an intentional life.
LBTL: The 80′s were turbulent times for the South Bronx. Why was it important for you to document the lives of the Latino community?
RF: It was more by circumstance that the photos that were taken. I lived in the community, had just received 35mm camera from a small inheritance that I got at 18 from my father and I lived in the South Bronx during one of the most turbulent times in the city.
That and a desire to define myself as a Puerto Rican descendant started the journey of self discovery and in that process the documentation of the people of the South Bronx. In that process I began to recognized that I was living in a historic moment and changed my focus from photographing family and friends to photographing what was taking place in my community.
LBTL: You say that it was never your intention to photograph history. But of all the images you have been witness too which one was the most profound?
RF: There are many images that have taken over the years. It is difficult to choose one over another because what we are talking about, in fact, but they are memories of my life, what I have seen, felt and thought during any given moment at time. Some photos bring you back to the moment of when it was taken.
Others jog vague experiences but all are a part of me. History in the broad sense is what we all experience, but to the personal it is a profound experience to each and every one of us. I have a camera and document my own experience of the moment. How do I separate my youth in the South Bronx or that of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Or the very first photo of my wife or son from the grief of a family member over the lost of a loved one to violence? Through the lens of age and experience it doesn’t become so easy.
LBTL: This was a scary summer for you. You had 3 stents placed into your heart. Has that experience changed your photographic perspective?
RF: Most had to do with some deep introspection and the very real issues of mortality that we all will have to face and meet to the best of our abilities. I didn’t do so well and felt myself withdrawing from everyone including my family members. Through that process I had to come to grips with how I have lived my life in the past with how I want to spend what remains.
It is pushing me to deepen my connection to people and not to take my experiences for granted or of those around me. This life experience is demanding that I have to do better, have to finalize the mastery of my chosen profession and complete projects such as the work from the South Bronx and make them available to anyone that wants to see it.
LBTL: Answer this question for me, “One day Ricky Flores will take one last photograph, and it will be of…”
RF: I don’t know, but hopefully it will be that of a loved one, my wife, my family by my side and not some bare hospital room alone.
Call To Action
I love Ricky Flores’ responses. They are of a man who has not only been a witness to some of life’s most profound moments. But of a man who has witnessed his own mortality. And the fragility of life.
So it is imperative that each and every one of us profoundly connect with those that mean the most to us. And succumb to the demands of living a better life.