In The News
LIVING (Feature Arts): DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, Gannett Rochester Newspaper Sunday Edition, Aug. 2, 2008, Rochester, NY. One Craft, Two Paths: “Two new books by Rochester photographers show a 72-year-old master surveying his career and a younger Latino artist trying out a fresh style… Voices in First Person (Simon & Schuster, $16.99) is a collection of 21 short, fictional narratives about being a Latino teenager in America. Manuel Rivera-Ortiz takes photos to illustrate texts by stars such as Sandra Cisneros (House on Mango Street) and Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love).Their new stories are lively, gritty and frank in portraying shootings, rape and isolation. Rivera-Ortiz, 39, matches that tone with disorienting shots often in blurred motion, off-center or deliberately out of focus. We seldom see faces; in-stead, we learn about these people through their graffiti, torn jeans and guns. Unlike Chiarenza, Rivera-Ortiz is still forging his artistic personality. His 2006 "India" exhibit at the Link Gallery, for example, featured traditional (though soulful) portraiture. Voices represents a stylistic departure, while continuing his interest in photographing poverty around the world. "I remember what it was like to grow up poor in Puerto Rico," he says. "Some of these stories mirrored my own family's experiences." He traveled to Puerto Rico, blue-collar Ohio and some Rochester neighborhoods to capture the black-and-white images in Voices. He sought people with backgrounds and issues similar to those explored in the book - relying on friends and family members for tips.”— Stuart Low, Staff Writer/CriticLIVING (Features Arts): DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, Gannett Rochester Newspaper Sunday Edition, December 17, 2006, Rochester, NY. Photographer captures poverty's portrait: Rochester photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz documents the world's most destitute corners: “Wherever he travels, the images that haunt Manuel Rivera-Ortiz are his memories of growing up poor.??Since 2001, this Rochester photographer has snapped portraits in some of the most destitute corners of the Third World. Whether in Kenya, Thailand or Bolivia, he has little trouble creating a rapport with perfect strangers. He simply walks up with an interpreter, often smoothing the way with gifts of rice or pens. "I feel comfortable with these people, as if they're part of my family," says Rivera-Ortiz, 37. "I just say 'Hi, let me snap your picture.' They almost never show any hesitancy. Being with them, I'm retracing my childhood in Puerto Rico." The focus of his new exhibit at City Hall's Link Gallery is poverty in India. The villagers and roadside vendors that he approaches stare directly into his lens. That straightforward gaze also touches something in his boyhood.“ (Cont.) — Stuart Low, Staff Writer/CriticFrom The Stacks: UTNE Reader.com, November 17, 2006, Topeka, Kansas. “A certain level of timelessness shines through Manuel Rivera-Ortiz's photographs of Cuba. Current fashion is absent, classic cars dot the background, and the sharp contrast of the black-and-white film offers little clue that these pictures are from 2002. The photographs are just some of the pieces highlighted in issue 11.02 of Nueva Luz, the tri-annual photojournal that publishes the work of photographers of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander heritage. Commentator Margarita Aguilar revels in the featured artists' abilities to present themselves as travelers, both to ‘real, geographical places as well as imagined landscapes or distinctive spaces conjured up by their imagination.’ “— Rachel Anderson, Staff WriterCity Of Rochester News: ROCHESTER CITY HALL, November 20, 2006, Rochester, NY. “India," a collection of 36 images of India and its people by Puerto Rican-born photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz will display, Nov. 21 until Jan. 8, 2007 in City Hall's Link Gallery, 30 Church St, where the public can meet the artist during a reception, 6 - 8 p.m., Thurs., Nov. 30. Rivera Ortiz's work focuses on the poor and disenfranchised around the world. He is the recipient of the national En Foco, Inc. New Works Photography Award for his images of Cuba. His work has exhibited in galleries and publications worldwide, including Mead Living Australia. Images from Rivera-Ortiz's first ever documentary work in Kenya 2001 were recently added to the permanent collections of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography.”—Goldee Hecht-Meyer, CuratorArts & Entertainment: THE EMPTY CLOSET, "A view of India" is at Link Gallery through Jan. 8,” December 4, 2006, Rochester, NY. “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: India, which opened Nov. 21 at City Hall’s Link Gallery, will run through Jan. 8. “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: India” will be traveling to venues in Buffalo, in Minnesota at the William Whipple Art Gallery, New York City and abroad to Swiss Reinsurance in Zurich Switzerland and beyond, after opening at the show’s hometown of Rochester. From NYFA.ORG: “A documentarian dedicated to picturing stories of hardship and hope in the third world, New York-based photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s photos are provocative and real, marrying journalism and personal experience. “Rivera-Ortiz’s photo reportage is linked to his childhood, which he spent growing up poor in outposts throughout Guayama in Puerto Rico. With photographic heroes that include Sebastiao Salgado, Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, and Steve McCurry, Rivera-Ortiz's work has led him to photograph people from Kenya to Cuba, Turkey to Thailand, and other places in between.” Rivera said, “I still do not sell my work as continuing proof of the purpose of it as a tool of awareness into the plight of the people around the world, and not a personal quest for grandeur as more often tends to be the case. A woman from The New York Times archives company told me that in going about it the way I am, I am clearly raising the bar on those whose intentions go no further than their lips when it comes to helping the people whom they photograph.” "Rice Over Open Fire," Ahmedabad, India. In late 2006, authorities in India passed tighter restrictions on child labor. The new law bans the hiring of children under age 14 to work in the homes of the urban, middle-class elite as maids, or in restaurants and hotels as low-paid wait staff. But whether paid or not, the children of the poor continue to toil throughout India, usually at home where they are left to care for younger siblings while in the absence of adult supervision. The girl in this photo cooks rice over an open fire in the small entryway of their one-room home for several of her younger siblings. Children like her, who do end up working in the homes of the rich, often experience physical or sexual abuse according to Indian and international child watch groups, and as reported by a member of the Indian media with whom Rivera-Ortiz spoke in Ahmedabad. Official figures suggest that there are some 12 million children under 14 working in India; activists say the number is closer to 60 million..”—Susan Jordan, Editor-in-Chief. Alumni News: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, Graduate School of Journalism News, December 5, 2006, New York, NY. “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, '98, opened his latest exhibition at the Link Gallery, City Hall in Rochester, NY. It includes 36 color images of India and its people from 2003-05. The show will run Nov. 21 - Jan. 8. His photos marry journalism and the very personal experience of his childhood growing up poor in outposts throughout Guayama, Puerto Rico. His award-winning Cuba work is included in the two-year traveling exhibition/publication Viajeros: North American Photographers’ Images of Cuba opening March 8—April 14 (2007) at The Centre Gallery, Miami Dade College, Wofson Campus, Miami, FL. Images from Rivera-Ortiz’s first ever documentary work in Kenya 2001 were recently added to the permanent collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY.” June 5, 2006: “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, '98, a writer turned photographer, is dedicated to picturing stories of hardship and hope in the third world which are directly linked to his own childhood spent growing up poor in outposts throughout Guayama in Puerto Rico. As one arts editor put it: “His work is provocative and real, marrying journalism and personal experience.” Rivera-Ortiz is the recipient of the En Foco, Inc., New Works Photography Award and exhibits his images around the US.”—Irena Choi Stern, EditorMirador Cultural: EL DIARIO LA PRENSA, 2 de Abril de 2006, New York, NY. “Fotografías de Manuel Rivera-Ortiz. La galería itinerante En Foco presenta la muestra ‘Cuba’ del fotógrafo puertorriqueño Manuel Rivera-Ortiz. En el Middle Collegiate Church, 50 Este de la calle 7. Recepción inaugural hoy de 1.30 pm a 2.30 pm. Más información en (718) 584-7718, firstname.lastname@example.org o www.cafepress.com/enfoco.” MEAD Living Australia: A MEAD HOSPITALITY Publication, Quarterly Magazine, February—June 2006, West Perth, Australia. “Many life lessons have been learnt by Manuel from growing up poor. Among them is the conviction that it is not his place, especially, to pass judgment on the world’s poor or landless through his lens. Having grown up in much the same circumstances as the people in his pictures, he understands how some would not find it agreeable if a stranger’s passing fancy included taking pictures of his family. Through this, and taking the time to interact with his subjects, he hopes to bring light to their world, and spread that light to others through his imagery.”—Ian Morin, EditorialLocal/State: THE MORNING CALL, Newspaper, Viajeros: Images of Cuba’ a diverse, evasive portrait of a divided nation, Rivera-Ortiz is included in this exhibition; Thurs., November 17, 2005, Lehigh Valley, PA. “…The result is ‘Viajeros (Travelers),’a collection of 142 photos and seven videos at Lehigh University, where [curator Ricardo] Viera supervises galleries and museum operations It’s a dizzyingly diverse, puzzlingly evasive portrait of a deeply divided nation, where tourists are welcome but natives aren’t welcome at tourist centers. The show essentially begins with four large, slightly ragged black-and-white photos of home shrines, an eternal fixture in Cuba. Elaine Ling. One of the photographers who requested this exhibit, uses sprocket holes to suggest frayed curtains. The illusion, in turn, filters a form of worship that’s serious and seriously casual.”Preface: VIAJEROS: NORTH AMERICAN ARTIST/ PHOTOGRAPHERS’ IMAGES OF CUBA, Book, Ninety Miles Away and East Of Eden, Margarita J. Aguilar; November 2—January 8, 2006, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, PA. “…Taking the land and the landscape—or, el campo cubano, as inspiration for their work, Mario Algaze, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Tria Giovan, Susan Bank, John Valls, Janis Lewin, and Mel Rosenthal undertake very different approaches; some of the artists prefer to emphasize what happens in the landscape or el campo. Others find the land too sublime to depict any other aspect that may detract from her majesty. Algazo’s Plantación de malanga, Valle de Viñales and Parque central, Santa Clara, Cuba; Rivera-Ortiz’s Finding Home, Pinar del Rio; Giovan’s images of various locales, such as Holguín province, Ciego de Ávila Province and Camagüey Province; Bank’s beautifully haunting series, Campo Adentro; and Rosenthal’s images of the harshness of rural life, employ aesthethic similarities but display significant distinctions in composition and in framing their photographs. They are all achingly lyrical.”ARTshorts: ARTVOICE Magazine, From Cuba in New York. September 22-28, 2005, Buffalo, New York, NY. “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, originally of Guayama, Puerto Rico, is currently showing photographs of Cuba at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera in Allentown. His biography is featured in the current issue of the New York Foundation for the Arts’ NYFA Current. The article, including photographs he has taken of people all over world can be found online at NYFA Interactive: www.NYFA.org, (just type his name into the search box). The last sentence of the article clearly defines how he approaches his work, “I’m not here to make pictures for critics, I’m here for the people in my pictures.” The photographs of people living in Cuba present their vital personalities, often living in poverty. The dark brown eyes and open faces of his subjects show that the photographer truly is there to see them fro who they are, to document their lives. The exhibition continues through Oct. 15.”Forum: HISPANIC BUSINESS.COM Magazine, September 8, 2005, National. Jamiedakis: “Another reason to be proud and shout ‘Viva La Raza’: Young Hispanic photographer [Manuel Rivera-Ortiz] what more could one ask for in the Hispanic arts? This is another example of someone of Hispanic origin making it big in New York. Hurray for ‘los artistas hispanos.’” Csdelaloza: “Thank you Jamie…beautiful story anf photos…he’s awesome.” Oscar Garcia: “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz is a very talented person. Not only is he talented, he is very well educated, and successful in his chosen profession. Manuel Rivera-Ortiz es un orgullo Hispano.” Mirador Cultural: EL DIARIO LA PRENSA, 11 de Mayo de 2005, New York, NY. “Muestra fotográfica En Foco, una entidad que resalta el trabajo de los fotógrafos de ascendencia africana, Latina, asiática, de las isla del Pacifico y natives americanos presenta en colaboración con la galleria de arte Longwood de Hostos Community College en El Bronx, una muestra de los ganadores de su concurso de fotografia 2004: Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Bonnie Portelance y Nzingah Muhammad. Recepción inaugural el dia 6 de abril, de 5 a 8 p.m. Charla con los artistas el 4 de mayo de 6:30 a 7:30 p.m.”Exhibitions: PHOTOGRAPH Magazine, March/April 2005 ($5), Pgs. 98, 101, 64 West 89th Street, New York, NY, 10024. (www.photography-guide.com) Tel. 212.787.0401Spotlight: ROCHESTER LIVING, Democrat and Democrat and Chronicle, Newspaper, Artist's Spotlight, Section Cover, Rochester, NY, April 3, 2005. "The main focus of my photography is people in developing countries. I consider my work to be a celebration of life. I'm still film-based in this brave new world of digital, even though I do scan and print my work digitally. Where do you find inspiration? Ever since I can remember growing up in Puerto Rico, I have loved pictures. My grandmother, who was 95 when she died last year and was my last living grandparent, would sit me down on her lap while fingering the few old photographs that she still kept of her family. Those stories made me realize how important a picture can be. There's something about a picture, for better or worse, that can instantly transport the mind to a very specific time and place. Favorite artist: Photographer Steve McCurry. Featured work: If (2003). The little girl and her family live by the side of the road in Pushkar, India, and they eke out a living by selling roasted water nuts. Current exhibition: Three photographs on display in the "Photographer's Path" exhibit at the Center at High Falls Art Gallery, 60 Brown's Race, through May 1."Boroughwide News: BRONX TIMES, Newspaper, Two Contemporary Art Exhibits at Longwood Gallery, April 1, 2005, New York, NY. “Longwood Arts Project, the contemporary art program of the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA), presents two new exhibitions at Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos: Can I Get A Witness and En Foco’s New Works Photography Awards. The exhibitions are on view from March 26 through May 18. In the project room: En Foco’s New Works Photography Awards is a group exhibition of works by Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Bonnie Portelance, and Nzingah Muhammad (press image below) organized by Marisol Diaz abd Miriam Romais of En Foco. This year’s juror was Frank Gimpaya. The New Works Photography Awards annually selects four photographer of African, Asian, Latino or Native American, Pacific Islander and Aleutian heritage through a national call for entries. New Works provides artists with the support to create or complete in-depth, photographic work that explores themes emanating from their personal experiences, in any style and/or genre and the infrastructure needed for a professional exhibition in the New York area.”Spotlight: THE NEW YORK POST, Tabloid, Hot Picks, March 23, 2005, New York, New York, NY. "Picture Perfect (Saturday); for over 24 years, Bronx treasure En Foco has actively promoted photographers of color. This weekend, check out their "En Foco New Works Award" exhibit, featuring 2004 works by Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Bonnie Portelance and Nzingah Muhammad. March 26 to May 18, Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street, The Bronx."—Jam Session.Arts: ROCHESTER INSIDER, Democrat and Chronicle, Newspaper, Hardships Shape His Images, August 27, 2004, Rochester, NY. "[Excerpt] Manuel Rivera-Ortiz sees a little bit of his childhood in almost every picture he takes. A photographer who primarily concentrates on subjects in Third World countries, he remembers his early years of hardship in Puerto Rico when he is on location in places such as Cuba, Kenya, Turkey and India. His work, which often depicts people struggling amidst deplorable conditions, has been exhibited at Park 54 Gallery and the Memorial Art Gallery, among others, and can currently be seen at the Link Gallery at City Hall."—Tim Karan.Cultura: LATINA MAGAZINE.COM, Rivera-Ortiz Photos of Cuba, August 26, 2004, New York, NY. "As Cuba continues to headline in the U.S., a local exhibition will feature photographs of the Caribbean nation taken in 2002. 'Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: Cuba,' is a retrospective solo exhibition of 37 black and white images of the people and the landscapes of this island nation by Puerto Rican photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz. The exhibition runs through Aug. 30 at City Hall's Link Gallery."News Beat: DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE, Newspaper, Local and State, Cuba Photos To Be Displayed, August 15, 2004, Rochester, NY. "Rivera-Ortiz: Cuba,' an exhibit of 37 black and white photographs reflecting Cuba and Puerto Rico, will be on display in Rochester City Hall's Link Gallery through Aug. 30. The photos were taken by Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, a native of Puerto Rico who now lives in Rochester. The Gallery is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on the first floor of City Hall, 30 Church Street."Cover: CONXION, Newspaper, One bird, two wings: Local photojournalist’s look inside Cuba in search of the Puerto Rico of his childhood, August 2004, Rochester, NY. "City Hall was filled with sights and sounds of Cuba on Thursday, July 29. Photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz hosted a reception at the Link Gallery in celebration of his exhibit, "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: Cuba." As visitors viewed the exhibit which included thirty-seven black and white photographs, they were entertained with the tropical sounds of local band, Orquesta Fama Sin Gafas. The photographs are a reflection of Cuba and its people and are on display at the Link Gallery until August 30. The exhibit will then travel to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and to El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera in Buffalo, New York."—Debora McDell.Local/State: INDEPENDENT-MARSHALL Newspaper, Artistic Expressions: Latest exhibit at William Whipple Gallery includes paintings, sketches, and photography from around the world, February 12, 2004, Marshall, Minn. "[Excerpt] While some artists draw their works from material "castoffs," others add social messages by picturing the human castaways. Manuel Rivera-Ortiz's black-and-white photos lend an expression all their own. "A lot of his purpose is trying to make us aware of the plights of other people," [Bonnie] VanMoorlehem said. "He goes to third-world countries and photographs people — he grew up in Puerto Rico in a hut with a dirt floor." One of his works is called "Children at Recess." Mortared-walls surround children in this work, and a bit of sunlight enters an opening above a corridor to cast some light on the floor. "It really draws in a person," said VanMoorlehem. "You could walk right into the photograph." He also captures photos where the light and life are replaced by more somber subjects. VanMoorlehem explained a work by him that is not on display. "He sent me one picture of a little child dead and bloated in this watering hole in an e-mail — people just throw them out he says ...he's hoping that by these photographs, people will respond," said VanMoorlehem."—Carl J. Nelson.