by Nicolle Morales Kern
He is known as “The man who took Hip Hops baby pictures” and DJ Tony Tone and the Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Kool Herc, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz surrounded him on a regular basis. This week I had the honor of speaking to Joe Conzo Jr., who lived and experienced the beginning of a cultural movement, in New York City, that has influenced the lifestyle of two generations and continues to do so today.
We always wonder what it is like to be present when history is being made and have the tendency to forget that at the time it is just everyday life.
“We were just a bunch of Black and Latino kids escaping drugs and urban plight around us and I did it through photography. It was about having fun and getting dressed up for next Friday, the next party. It was an innocent time back then, who knew it would blow up 30 years later,” Conzo Jr., said of experiencing the beginning of hip hop.
He is the son of Lorraine Montenegro and Joe Conzo, the former manager of Tito Puente, and the grandson of Dra. Evelina López Antonetty. She was a woman known as “the Hell Lady of the Bronx,” a human rights activist and founder of United Bronx Parents, Inc. Michael Kane, his stepfather, encouraged him to pursue his talents in photography.
Joe sees the significance of his work in the documentation of culture and history over the past 30 or so years. A passion he follows every day as he captures all elements of Hip Hop and topics from immigration reform to Rubén Blades. He lived during a time of community uproar and demonstrations and loves that his black and white photography caught all of that.
“You should document whatever you do and not let others tell your story,” he said.
When not behind his lens, this Jets fan is saving lives and delivering babies as a paramedic for the New York Fire Department as he has been for the past 18 years. Other roles that he gladly fills are father, husband and union activist.
“To me Being Latino means being proud of who you are, where you come from and where you’re going. It’s about knowing what you can do for your culture. Latino people are a rainbow people, a culture of diverse backgrounds. Latino culture is a strong culture and we need to support each other more.”
To learn more about Nicolle,
visit NAMK Photography.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.