Wayne Lawrence

BY Elisabeth Biondi, January 1, 2013

What inspires a photographer to embark on a project that will take up six years of his life? For Wayne Lawrence the emotional triggers were as varied as they were deep — the tragic loss of his brother, the memories of the summer spent in the Bronx with his grandmother when he was 16, and his return from L.A. to New York’s hip hop culture. He was amazed by the very existence of Orchard Beach, an unlikely “Riviera” at the edge of a borough heavy and hard — The Bronx. For years, each summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day, he took two trains and a bus in order to document a complex universe he witnessed. Even when he was broke and had only a couple of rolls of film remaining, he went up there to get one more image worth his trip. But why?

He saw an intricate society unfolding in front of his eyes, and he would join it. Perhaps the fact that he was brought up by a single mother enabled him to easily make real connections. Seeing the fragility of life and how easily it can take a wrong turn opened his eyes to the positive potential in himself and others. His approach was with respect and without prejudice. Generous.

Pictures are mirrors — in Wayne’s pictures I see pride, daring, confidence, pleasure and pain. Life. And there, in life, he seems to have found his photographic voice.