In December 2002, right after surviving The World Trade Center attacks, I decided to move to a quieter, lower rise scale neighborhood, leaving the ”Prada” comfort of the Central Park West area to the so considered ”Nada” of West Harlem. Being a trained Architect immediately, felt in love with its historic architecture, scale, sense of community and more than anything, its rich and vibrant street culture that motivated me to become a photographer.
Over the last 9 years mostly during the summer months and traveling by bicycle, camera in hand, I had been documenting with photographs how Harlem in search of what is like to live in NYC areas that, till most recently and for many prior decades, had been ignored by the government and most of society.
The main focus of my 10 Year Project called NY: The Concrete Jungle has been mostly in Harlem, which has become the ultimate symbol of forced gentrification and urban renewal. For many decades private corporations and the government ignored this Manhattan NYC area. Only liquor and cigarettes sponsors will advertise in the area encouraging use and addiction. This is not the Sex and The City of Manhattan that most people clamor and aim for. I had 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.
Ruben Natal-San Miguel