Manuel Rivera-Ortiz

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Manuel Rivera-Ortiz
Manuel Rivera Ortiz Paris Dec 2009 01.jpg
Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Paris, France, 2009
Born (1968-12-23) December 23, 1968 (age 50)
NationalityPuerto Rican
Notable credit(s)
2004: En Foco New Works Photography Award. 2007: Artist of the Year, Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester

Manuel Rivera-Ortiz (born December 23, 1968) is a stateside Puerto Rican photographer.[1][2][3] He is best known for his social documentary photography of people's living conditions in less developed nations.[4][5][6][7] Rivera-Ortiz lives in Rochester, New York, in New York City and in Zurich.

Life and work[edit]

Rivera-Ortiz was born into a poor family in the barrio of Pozo Hondo, outside Guayama on the Caribbean coast of Puerto Rico, the eldest of ten children (including four half-siblings and two stepsisters).[8] He grew up in a corrugated tin shack with dirt floors without running water.[9][10] His father hand-chopped sugar cane in the fields of Central Machete and Central Aguirre in the declining days of the Puerto Rican sugar industry, and, following the Zafra or sugar-harvesting season, labored as a migrant farm worker in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.[11]

Tobacco Harvesting, Viñales Valley, Cuba 2002

When Rivera-Ortiz was 11 years old, his parents separated and his father moved with the children to the US mainland in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The separation from his mother, whom he has not seen since, had a profound effect on Rivera-Ortiz. He attended classes at Mt. Holyoke and Springfield colleges as part of the Massachusetts Migrant Education summer program, where he was offered his first courses in photography and film development. The family later moved to Rochester, New York.[citation needed]

After attending East High School (Rochester, New York) Rivera-Ortiz worked as a journalist. In 1995 he graduated cum laude with a B.A. degree as an English major from Nazareth College, and in 1998 he received his Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.[12]

Following his graduation he worked as a journalist for newspapers (e.g. Democrat and Chronicle)[13] and magazines (e.g. Elle),[citation needed] but soon turned to photojournalism and documentary photography. In 2001, he began traveling as a freelance photographer with an emphasis on social issues and has exhibited his work in photographic exhibitions.[8][14]

Widow Of The Mines, Potosí, Bolivia 2004

Traveling widely, his photography focuses on humanitarian issues often ignored by mainstream media.[15] His work is included in museum and corporate collections, including George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film,[16][17][18] the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art[19] and the Museum of Fine Arts Berne.[20] In 2004, he received En Foco's New Works Photography Award,[21][22] and in 2007 the Artist of the Year Award of the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester.[23]

In 2002, he photographed Cuba, comparing the conditions he found there to the Puerto Rico of his youth.[24] He has exhibited photographs showing the dignity of the Dalit ("Untouchable") Caste of India[8][25] and the Aymara living in the arid altiplano of Bolivia.[26] He has also photographed people from Kenya to Turkey to Thailand.[11] His work has been featured in the April 2008 issue of Rangefinder magazine.[9] In 2010, Rivera-Ortiz visited Dharavi and Baiganwadi and took pictures of daily life in these two Mumbai slums. In 2011, he documented the September 11 Commemorations in Shanksville, Pennsylvania for the French photography organization[27] In 2012, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism featured Rivera-Ortiz' work on poverty in the developing world in its collection of 50 Great Stories produced by alumni over the past century.[12]

The work of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz demonstrates that social documentary as activism still continues to exist in the modern world.[28]

Rivera-Ortiz can be classified as a social realist with his focus on social issues and the hardships of everyday life.[29][30]

City Dump, Yamuna River Slum, Delhi, India 2005


Publications by Rivera-Ortiz[edit]

  • India - A Celebration of Life, Heidelberg, Germany: Kehrer, 2015. ISBN 978-3-86828-609-0.

Publications with others[edit]

  • Viajeros: North American Artist / Photographers’ Images of Cuba. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Art Galleries, 2005. Catalog of an exhibition held at the Dubois Gallery, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, 2 November 2005 - 8 January 2006. "This exhibition consists of 59 artists featured in a multimedia project of over 100 images. It presents photographic essays, videos and single/dual images of Cuba..."
  • Voices in First Person. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Edited by Lori Marie Carlson. ISBN 1-4169-8445-3. Rivera-Ortiz provides the photographs in what the publisher describes as "A collection of monologues featuring the most respected Latino authors writing today, including Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, and Gary Soto."
  • Percepciones en Blanco & Negro – Colombia. Ediciones Adéer Lyinad, 2009.
  • 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time. New York: Time, 2016

Publications edited by Rivera-Ortiz[edit]

  • A New Documentary. The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9896053-0-4.


Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film[edit]

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film is a non-profit private operating foundation headquartered in Rochester, New York. Rivera-Ortiz established the Foundation in 2010 to support underrepresented photographers and filmmakers from less developed countries with awards, grants, exhibitions, and educational programs.[45][46] The foundation operates an exhibition space in Arles, France.[47]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz". Prix Pictet. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  2. ^ Austin, Josh. "Famous Documentary Photographers". Photography Arts Cafe. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  3. ^ Gampat, Chris (2012-12-26). "This Week in Photography History: The Birth of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz". The Photographer. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  4. ^ Democrat & Chronicle April 3, 2005, pg C1
  5. ^ Metropolitan Magazine; Arts & Cultural Council, Rochester NY, cover story Spring 2007
  6. ^ "The next Manuel Rivera-Ortiz?". The Esther Benjamins Trust. Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  7. ^ Pasadena City College (Visual Arts & Media Studies) Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c Low, Stuart (2006-12-17). "Poverty's portrait". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. pp. C.3 (cover story, Section C). Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  9. ^ a b Rivera-Ortiz, Manuel (April 2008). "A Journey of Self-Discovery" (PDF). Rangefinder, the Magazine for Professional Photographers. p. 126. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  10. ^ Glennie Seychew, Christa (January 2007). "An Interview with Photographer Manuel Rivera-Ortiz". Buffalo Rising. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  11. ^ a b "Picturing My Life". New York Foundation for the Arts. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  12. ^ a b Columbia Journalism School
  13. ^ Garner, Jack (2016-02-18). "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz brings beauty to poor in India". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  14. ^ Malo, Alejandro. "Documentary Art". ZoneZero. Retrieved 2010-12-18.
  15. ^ Puri, Nikita (2015-11-12). "A photographer shares his frames from the fringes". Business Standard. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  16. ^ a b c GEH (2006), George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, Annual Report 2006, p. 9 Archived 2010-12-30 at the Wayback Machine (Rivera-Ortiz work listed as photographic accession in 2006)
  17. ^ ConXion Magazine, interview February 2007, pg. 10-11
  18. ^ The collection in the museum of fine arts Berne
  19. ^ a b Nelson-Atkins Museum Collection Database Archived 2017-05-08 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "The Jury". IFAP. 2016-11-29. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  21. ^ a b c "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz". En Foco. Archived from the original on 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  22. ^ Nueva Luz Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 2, pgs. 2-9, 2006.
  23. ^ "Arts Awards Recipients". Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  24. ^ ConXion Magazine cover story, August 2004
  25. ^ a b c d "Kodak Presents Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Exhibit of India". Imaging Info. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  26. ^ ConXion Magazine cover story August 2005, pgs. 10-11
  27. ^ Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Archived 2012-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Townsend, Rob (2016-01-27). "Research point: Forgotten communities". Gesture & Meaning. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  29. ^ Korzun, Kelly (2015-11-24). "Book Review: India A Celebration of Life by Manuel Rivera-Ortiz". Musée Magazine. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  30. ^ Estevez, Marjua (2015-08-19). "WorldPhotographyDay: 5 Latin Photographers With Unique World Views". Vibe. Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  31. ^ Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 30, 2004, p. I.61 (Insider Section)
  32. ^ En Foco Exhibitions Archived 2010-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz images to grace City Hall Link Gallery". City of Rochester. November 20, 2006. Archived from the original on May 17, 2013. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  34. ^ Artvoice
  35. ^ Democrat & Chronicle, August 27, 2004, page 24, Section I
  36. ^ "Hardships shape his images". Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  37. ^ "Longwood Art Gallery Past Exhibitions And Events". Bronx Council on the Arts. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  38. ^ "VIAJEROS: North American Artist/ Photographers' Images of Cuba". Lehigh University Art Galleries. Retrieved 2011-09-06.
  39. ^ Miami Herald, April 5, 2007
  40. ^ "Art Off the Main 2007". Retrieved 2010-11-20.
  41. ^ Voies off
  42. ^ Le Journal de la Photographie
  43. ^ Paris Photo 2015
  44. ^ "Arles 2019 : Hey! What's Going On? – Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: The Forgotten Children of Ahmedabad". The Eye of Photography. 2019-07-16. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  45. ^ "Argentine Photographer Gustavo Jononovich Awarded Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation Grant". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
  46. ^ The New York Times
  47. ^ Crouzet, Guillaume (6 August 2016). "A ne pas rater aux Rencontres photographiques d'Arles" (in French). L'Express. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  48. ^ a b c "Manuel Rivera-Ortiz", in Lori Marie Carlson, ed., Voices in first Person: Reflections on Latino Identity (New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008; ISBN 1-4169-0635-5); available here at Google Books.

External links[edit]