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Fletcher Streetby Martha Camarillo
Synopses & Reviews
Deep in the heart of Philadelphia, past row houses and vacant lots, run-down playgrounds and dilapidated schools, is a little place called Fletcher Street. It has everything one would expect to find down an alley in the ghetto, with one addition: horses. The men and boys of Fletcher Street have used their passion for riding and bonds with their rides to build their and their community’s sense of worth. They describe their passion for horses as having kept them from the temptations of street life. Fletcher Street by Martha Camarillo documents the lives of these men and the boys they mentor, who board their horses in abandoned houses or makeshift stables, and ride them through the streets of Philly.
Camarillo’s work is valuable not only because it illuminates a fascinating new aspect of culture, but also because it challenges those who see it. Her photographs force viewers to confront their own preconceptions of sport as representative of social status, and race as a demarcation of class. The power of Camarillo’s exploration of this underrepresented community is based on the strength of the men themselves: urban horsemen who have ridden away from the ’hood and toward a better future.
"Self-taught photographer Camarillo gained rare access to an insulated and unexpected community of horsemen in inner-city Philadelphia, which she chronicles through dozens of vivid photographs of these African-American riders and their mounts. For nearly 50 years, real urban cowboys have kept horses in stables near Northwest Philly's Fletcher Street, while also mentoring the next generation. Some of the photos are truly striking: a tight composition focuses on a hand holding reins, drawing the viewer's eye first to a bling-encrusted bracelet and then to the blue eye of the stallion. Chaps-clad legs straddle a pony, while bright Adidas sneakers peek below the fringed leather. But what begins as a riveting photo essay eventually gets repetitive. The portraits of men proudly posing on or near their horses against an incongruous backdrop of vacant lots and dilapidated row houses repeats the same story without adding aesthetic variation or new dimensions to the basic premise. Nonetheless, Camarillo (coauthor of Remote Photos) provides an idiosyncratic slice of social history, while her best images challenge pervasive assumptions of life in the American ghetto. 65 full-color photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Martha Camarillo is a self-taught photographer from Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Telegraph, Numéro, Journal, i-D, and many others. Her first book, Remote Photos (Janvier/Léo Scheer, 2005), a collaboration with artist Avena Gallagher, was an in-depth look at the identity of teenage male and female models, made by giving the models themselves disposable cameras to be used by whomever they saw fit. Work from the project was exhibited at Léo Scheer Gallery, Paris, in 2005. Camarillo was the winner of the Hyères Festival 2001, and the 2002 Art Director’s Award.
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