New York City in the late 1970s was a collection of villages with its downtown scene, midtown workers, and uptown elegance. It was also a city that was more integrated than ever before, or ever would be again. All of the city’s humanity met in its streets with layered soundtracks of salsa, rock, disco, reggae, and soon hip-hop booming for all to groove to.
But, New York City was also a place of chaos and mayhem. Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy with rampant crime, it was the city’s drug users, dealers, pimps, and sex workers who ruled the streets of Manhattan. The grittiness of the city was a beacon and a promise to many outsiders. Those who didn’t quite fit into any mold, and a vibrant LGBTQ community became the nexus of an underworld of sex workers who liked to party. For a New York City cabbie such as Joseph Rodriguez, the hot spots to pick up fares were clubs like The Hellfire, Mineshaft, The Anvil, The Vault, and Show World. Losing his first camera and lens in a classic ’70s New York stabbing and mugging, Rodriguez’s wounds healed, and he armed himself with a new camera to document what he saw on the job: sex workers getting off their shifts, cross-dresser and S&M partiers doin’ it in the back seat, or somehow pulling off an unlikely costume change from bondage gear to emerge from the cab clean-cut in an oxford and khakis—ready to face unwitting family and friends.
A humanist at heart, his photographs speak of the dignity of the city’s working class and those struggling to get by from all the boroughs.
Joseph Rodriguez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He began studying photography at the School of Visual Arts and went on to receive an AAS from New York City Technical College. He worked in the graphic arts industry before deciding to pursue photography further. In 1985, he graduated with a degree in photojournalism and documentary from the International Center of Photography in New York. He went on to work for Black Star photo agency, and print and online news organizations like National Geographic, the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Esquire, Stern, BBC News and New America Media, as well as advertising campaigns for Levi’s, AIG, and Ikea.
He has received awards and grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts Artist Fellowship, USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, the Open Society Institute Justice Media Fellowship and Katrina Media Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography, the Alicia Patterson Fellowship Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Konstnarsnamden Stipendium. He has been awarded Pictures of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association and the University of Missouri in 1990, 1992, 1996, and 2002. He is the author of Spanish Harlem, part of the American Scene series, by the National Museum of American Art/D.A.P., as well as “East Side Stories: Gang Life in East Los Angeles,” “Juvenile,” “Flesh Life: Sex in Mexico City,” “Still Here: Stories After Katrina,” and “Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s” (Powerhouse Books).
Recent exhibitions include Aperture Gallery, Galerie Bene Taschen in Cologne, Germany, Reva and David Logan Gallery for Documentary Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism in Berkeley, California, the Bronx Documentary Center in New York, NY, Gulf & Western Gallery in New York, NY, Hardhitta Gallery in Cologne, Germany, Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography at the University of La Verne, California, Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, Wales, U.K., Institute for Public Knowledge in New York, NY, Moving Walls at the Open Society Institute in New York, NY, and Cultural Memory Matters at 601 Art Space in New York, NY.
He has been a visiting artist at Stanford University, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, California, the University of La Verne, California, Columbia University’s School of Journalism, New York, the University of Texas, Austin’s School of Journalism, Ringling School of Art and Design, Florida, the University of Helsinki, Finland, Aarhus University, Denmark, Royal University of Fine Arts’ School of Architecture, Sweden, Loyola Marymount University, California, Hostos Community College, New York, and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, New York. He has taught at New York University Tisch School of the Arts and the International Center of Photography.
Since 2008, First Street Green (FSG) has converted a derelict building lot at 33 East 1st Street in Manhattan into an open art space and garden serving the Lower East Side community. Working with NYC Parks and Partnership for Parks, FSG has successfully incorporated the lot into First Park. After collaborating with the BMW Guggenheim Lab in 2010 to hold a series of visioning workshops with the community, FSG launched its first season of cultural programming on Earth Day in 2011 with a public sculpture.
Today, FSG provides ongoing cultural activity in First Park by engaging with artists, the community, and cultural groups through a series of programs that activate this public space. Each year, volunteers and artists gather to host events, art workshops, and continue with the park’s stewardship and beautification efforts. To date, FSG has hosted more than 300 events in the park, and is looking to provide a community resource even further going forward.
Taxi Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987
Featuring: Joseph Rodriguez
Curated by: Andy Outis
LocationsView Location Details First Street Green Cultural Park
33 E 1st St,
Location open 24 hours
This book Taxi Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987 was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
Walking Tour Of Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987, With Joseph Rodriguez
Grab your morning coffee and come join legendary photographer Joseph Rodriguez as he shares his memories and stories behind the images in his exhibition and book “Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987,” a collection of snapshots that are on display along the fence of First Street Green Cultural Park on Houston Street.Learn More
10 Under 10
Photoville’s 10 Under 10 featuring presentations from The New York Times, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Abrons Arts Center, Magnum Foundation, Pulitzer Center, Indigenous Photo, United Nations Women, Joseph Rodriguez, The Darkroom Masters, and National Geographic featuring live music from Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project.Learn More