Rumor has it that the weather has been a tad unseemly in the Big Apple lately. Ruben Natal-San Miguel’s work from Urban Water: Inner Child seems like an appropriate antidote to heat and humidity. Michael Hoeh (a New York based art collector, is a member of the Guggenheim Photo Acquisition Committee, the IPC Library Committee, and was the Co-Chairman of the Aperture Foundation’s 2010 Winter Auction–in 2010 he organized the critically acclaimed new art photography show, “American ReConstruction” at the Winkleman Gallery in Chelsea) and Leah Oates (founder of Station Independent Projects, which is a Brooklyn-based freelance curatorial business that organizes exhibitions and events with a focus on artist advocacy and promotion) curated the collection of seven chomogenic prints.
Ruben will be showcasing this work, along with several other images at the Art Hamptons Art Fair, through Finch & Ada, from July 7th -10th, 2011. Ruben is an engaged photographer, architect, curator, blogger, and advocate for photographers and photography, and I feel lucky to call him a friend.
Michael Hoeh writes about Urban Water: Inner Child : Euphoria, Curiosity, Ecstasy, Wonder, Enthusiasm, Anxiety, and Exuberance, these all are the emotions of the human spirit. But as image titles for Ruben Natal San-Miguel’s portfolio Urban Water: Inner Child, they portray the feelings of a distinctly urban personal view on life in New York City.
Like the photos in Helen Levitt’s 1965 iconic photobook, “A Way of Seeing” this portfolio too achieves that rare balance of sentiment without being sentimental, while always maintaining an objective distance. The casual observer of these photos is almost dazzled by their poetry, and can easily miss the harsher realities of inner city urban life masked by the surface warmth and joy. Here individuals play in water from sprinklers to fire hydrants and by doing so slow down for just a moment and become carefree.
In Natal San-Miguel’s images people smile, leap and frolic in the water to cool down and to have enjoyment. In many images there is a feeling of intense emotion, joyful color and the exploration of how sun reflects on the figure in water at different times of the day. Artists dating back to the 19th century Impressionist movement derived from Claude Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise, have long focused their artistic eye on capturing the ever changing colors of water in light.
Now, in the 21st century world, Natal San-Miguel continues this tradition with the use of silhouettes and shadow to create magical worlds where water ripples with light underneath changing colors of blue to alternating shades of yellow and green due to the time of day. Many of these photographs exude an emotion of intense happiness and show a different side of the urban jungle, one that is pleasurable, where people relate positively with one another and where straightforward items such as a fire hydrant can be an endless source of community amusement. Natal San-Miguel’s work appeals to our inner child, one that finds beauty and joy in a city environment of hot summer sun and the shimmering water’s light.
Ruben journeys all-around the streets of New York City – trekking his neighborhood of Harlem or passing the hustle of downtown sidewalks – finding the words and signs of healing and inspiration to move forward as a survivor of the attacks on September 11, 2001. As we fast approach the 10-year anniversary, Ruben has captured the message of “HOPE” tattooed on one of many passengers riding the ferry, steering a course near the location of the fatal attacks and in the distance is the Statue of Liberty, the iconic symbol of freedom and independence. This imagery taken by Ruben is a quintessential moment for anyone who has faced a trauma. This is a reminder that atonement is all around us and can be delivered even when we are not searching. Hope can be purchased here.
For the past eight years during the summer months, Ruben has traveled by bicycle throughout Upper Manhattan camera in hand in search of what is like to live in NYC areas that, till most recently and for many prior many decades, had been ignored by the government and most of society. This is not the “Sex and The City” Manhattan that most people clamor and aim for. Ruben has been able to find, not only a vibrant and colorful vision of that other Manhattan but, also a happy, endearing and very meaningful life lesson of what is like when the human spirit and communities make the best of others may considered to be so little. Lady Money can be purchased here.