|MANUEL RIVERA-ORTIZ photographs the poor and disenfranchised around the world. His photographic stories of hardship and hope in some of the world’s poorest nations serve as a testament to the life he himself experienced growing up in backwater barrios in Guayama, Puerto Rico.|
Current events, popular culture and mass media tend not to play a role in Rivera-Ortiz’ images. Instead, his work has more to do with the universality of poverty, the presence of hope in adversity and the dignity of people living in distress. The landless, the forgotten, all play an integral role in the greater message of Rivera-Ortiz’ images: that no matter what, all life is sacred and every human on earth deserves the opportunity of a healthy, happy existence.
Rivera-Ortiz has traveled many corners of the world from India to Kenya, Bolivia to Cuba, Thailand to Turkey and beyond. His major projects include the Mumbai slums Dharavi and Baiganwadi in India, the indigenous Aymara in the Andes and Altiplano regions in Bolivia and his breakout collection on tobacco workers of the Viñales Valley in Cuba.
Leaving behind the poor corrugated tin shantytowns of southern Puerto Rico in 1979, Rivera-Ortiz moved with his family to Holyoke, Massachusetts. It was here while attending summer school for the children of migrant workers that he took up the camera for the first time. His family later moved to Rochester, New York, where Rivera-Ortiz went to high school and college. In 1995, Rivera-Ortiz graduated cum laude with a B.A. degree as an English major from Nazareth College, and in 1998 he received his Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Following his graduation he worked as a journalist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper and Elle magazine. In 2001, turning to photojournalism and documentary photography, he began traveling as a freelance photographer with an emphasis on impoverished people in developing nations.
Images from Rivera-Ortiz’s work are now in the permanent collections of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. His work is also found at Columbia University’s Joseph Pulitzer Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, Lehigh University Art Galleries collection in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd in Zurich and other private and corporate collections. Rivera-Ortiz' photography is included in several books including the literary collection titled "Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity" (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008). His work can also be found in the Colombian photography publication “Percepciones en Blanco & Negro" (Adéer Lynad, Colombia).
Rivera-Ortiz is currently working on his third and first solo book of photography. Rivera-Ortiz' work was recently added to the Hallmark Collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.