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In Photos: A Bronx Native Captures His Home Borough in the Tumultuous 1970s

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MCNY's latest exhibit looks at the work of photographer Mel Rosenthal

All photos by Mel Rosenthal via MCNY

The South Bronx was ravaged in the 1970s and 80s by a city policy that looked to transform the area into an "Enterprise Zone" with new factories, which in turn led to the destruction of several buildings in the neighborhood. Photographer Mel Rosenthal was determined to ensure that those trying times not be forgotten by future generations, so he pointed his lens around him, and gave voice to the people of the neighborhood he grew up in.

This past Wednesday, the Museum of the City of New York unveiled, In the South Bronx of America, a collection of 42 photographs by Rosenthal, chronicling the social conditions of the South Bronx between 1976-1982. This particular time period saw an exodus of residents from the neighborhood, declining property values, and a loss of manufacturing jobs.

"We are very proud to host these compelling photos, which show the South Bronx during a difficult period in our city’s history," Whitney Donhauser, the director of MCNY, said in a press release. "We are glad that the South Bronx has come back strong since this period; however, it is important to look back at our history to better appreciate today and look forward to tomorrow."

Rosenthal got his PhD in English Literature and American Studies from the University of Connecticut. He subsequently taught at Vassar College and his alma mater, but it wasn't until a trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that he really honed his skills as a photographer. In the South Bronx of America was a project he pursued upon his return when he began teaching at the Empire State College in the neighborhood. The exhibit on his work at the MCNY will run until October 16, 2016.