“Family,” the name of photographer Rafael Rios’ new book, has a dual meaning. First, quite literally, the book is made up of images of his family, taken between 1999 and 2016 and mostly set in domestic spaces. They are intimate, playful, sometimes tinged with sadness. The home is a place of happiness, where people gather, talk, dance and play. His grandmother, especially, emerges as a central figure in the book, displaying pleasure and pain in equal doses: We see her laughing at one moment, full of life; the next she is in a hospital bed following surgery.
But the book is also about family in the larger sense. Fort Greene, where Rios’ extended family, immigrants from Puerto Rico, lived all together in a brownstone, is also on full display. He captures the familial atmosphere in the neighborhood, whether on various stoops, in backyards during summertime meals, or at the local public pool.
The images were produced when Rios was going to boarding school in New Jersey and coming home to Brooklyn on the weekends, he has said in interviews. Two years before the first images in the book were taken, he received his first camera, a Minolta XG-M 35mm that his mother picked up for him in a Flatbush pawn shop. It was the beginning of a career that includes shooting for the New York Times and GQ, as well as for brands such as Nike. Looking back, if only briefly, he’s paying tribute to where he came from.
“I want this book to convey that there is beauty in everyday life, places and spaces,” Rios writes in the press materials for the book, published by Baque Creative Press. “And sometimes the simplest moments captured between family not only end up being the most important but also shape who we become.”
[Photos by Rafael Rios]
Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Brownstoner magazine.
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