Rising Above

Online Gallery of Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography

Communities targeted for urban renewal were often labeled slums, a characterization that many local residents and activists contested. Hiram Maristany often took to rooftops, fire escapes, and windows to capture a dramatically different perspective of his El Barrio neighborhood in New York City. His pictures of children playing on the streets or adults roasting a pig in an alley—a tradition transplanted from Puerto Rico—portray a community teeming with life and culture. Maristany’s photographs transcend the media’s image of the inner city as a place of decay and crime. Like Frank Espada, Maristany married his photography with his activism. In 1969, he became a founding member and official photographer of the Young Lords, a radical youth activist group dedicated to improving urban life and fighting for Puerto Rican rights.