“Mentorship is the strongest form of passing it forward.” – Edwin Pagán
Edwin Pagán was born in New York City’s Lower East Side (Loisaida) in 1963 to Puerto Rican parents, and, as such, is a first-generation Nuyorican.
Pagán was exposed to photography at the age of 10 while a member of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club – Hoe Avenue Division (now Joel E. Smilow Clubhouse) in the South Bronx. During those early formative years he was mentored by the Club’s art director Ernesto Lozano, who instilled a strong sense of documenting everyday events in the local community as a means of preserving its history. During the next two decades he chronicled life in the region from an insider’s point-of-view, and created a body of work that reflects the tenacity and dignity of the people who lived there during a tumultuous time when the region was vilified and written off by many. The lessons learned during that time proved extremely valuable in transforming him into an artist with the ability to ‘see’ rather than just ‘look.’
During the mid-1980s and 90s, Pagán created some of his best-known iconic imagery as he delved deeper into capturing his community with a renewed passion, even as he also began to venture outside the borough of the Bronx and trained his lens on other sections of the city, including Spanish Harlem, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island. You can sample some of this work in the South Bronx gallery.
In 2011, Pagán became a founding member of the photography collective Seis del Sur (Six from the South) along with renown documentary photographers & photojournalists David González, Joe Conzo, Ricky Flores, Ángel Franco, and Francisco Molina Reyes II. Their groundbreaking first group show “Seis del Sur: Dispatches from Home by Six Nuyorican Photographers” opened at the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) on March 15, 2013 and broke all records for exhibitions of its kind in the region. The exhibit also received enormous press coverage and critical acclaim that is credited with reinvigorating a renewed interest in the subject of the South Bronx among galleries and news outlets across the country and abroad. The collective’s most recent major group show opened on October 23, 2015 at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (NYU), was extended several times due to popular demand, and finally closed on May 30, 2016.
Edwin Pagán is also a life-long horror fan. In 2008 he founded LATIN HORROR, an online portal specializing in Latin-influenced horror, its documentation, and promotion as a distinct genre. Pagán is at the forefront of the Latin “Dark Creative Expressionist” movement, a term he coined as a means of identifying the millions of Latin horrorphiles whose lifestyle and work is grounded in horror, the macabre, and Gothic arts and are avid proponents or fans of the genre.
in 2016, Pagán began exploring the emerging VR/AR technology as a means of expanding his visual and narrative toolbox as an artist. The following year he was chosen to be part of a select group of community artists working in VR by the Caribbean Cultural Center for their “Mi Querido Barrio (my beloved community),” an outdoor Augmented Reality exhibition curated by Lowery Stokes Sims that featured site-specific pieces focusing on physical locations of importance within the social history of El Barrio.
Today Pagán continues to mix his two talents—photography and writing—as a means of chronicling the social issues that impact inner-city communities. He also dedicates his time to mentoring young, emerging talent working in the photography and film sectors.
His current personal project, ‘Areítos en el Barrio,’ is long-term photographic essay that looks at the idiosyncratic cultural traditions in Spanish Harlem (El Barrio), including the weekly musical concerts and dance marathons that take place during the summer months under the elevated Metronorth train trestle affectionately known as La Marqueta (Spanish for ‘The Market’), as well as other social gatherings such as the small underground social clubs and dance-halls in the region. Sample work-in-progress can be viewed in the Spanish Harlem gallery.
Pagán currently serves as the program manager of the Bronx Culture Collective (BxCC), a bloc of South Bronx-based cultural, social service, technical assistance, healthcare, and environmental concerns that have organized to address the most pressing social issues in the region, including gentrification. His personal vision of “Cultural Identity Reclamation” is the driving catalyst for the work being undertaken by the collective.
Select prints from Pagán’s archives are available for sale. For details, head over to the BODEGA e-kiosk.
Select press on Edwin Pagán and his work.
You can follow Edwin Pagán’s day-to-day photo-related posts and tongue-in-cheek musings on social media at Instagram. You can also see some images at my now dormant account at Flickr.