Alfred Gonzalez was born in New York City, in 1962. He was raised in “El Barrio” – Spanish Harlem, on 112th Street & Lexington Avenue, where many of his early photographs are taken. He attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, where he studied photography and urban design from 1980 – 1981. He transferred to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and attended their School of Architecture for one year and then transferred to their School of Photography where he felt at home and at last back in the darkroom.
Alfred’s first experience in a darkroom was when he was about 11 years old when he stayed at his older brother Ibrahim González’s home on West 139thStreet, just down the block from City College where Ibrahim was a student. Like so many other photo-enthusiasts, Ibrahim had a makeshift darkroom in his bathroom where for the first time Alfred saw an image come to life in the developing tray. “It was magic”, Alfred has said so many times when describing that moment and it left a permanent impression on him. Soon after, Alfred joined the photography club at the Boy’s Club of New York, where he was a member since the age of 8, at 321 E. 111thStreet. It was there where he learned and excelled in photography, winning two medals in the Boy’s Club of America’s annual photo contest two years in a row. Alfred’s ability in darkroom technique had developed so rapidly that he was soon instructing his peers and the younger boys a couple of nights a week. By now he was about fifteen years old and had finally saved up enough money to purchase his own camera. Prior to that he was content with using his father’s and his brother’s camera when they would go out for a day of shooting together. In Alfred’s words, “I worked incredibly hard to save enough money to buy my first camera, the Nikon FM, in 1977. It was $400 and that was expensive. In fact it was so expensive that I could not afford to purchase the lens for it, a Nikkor 50mm 1.4. So my dad, a “Nikon Man”, lent me a lens until I was able to afford my own about a half year later. It cost me $150. My dad, Wilfred González Sr., could have bought my camera for me but felt it necessary that I worked hard for what I wanted and knew that I would never take it for granted as a result. He was right. Now I was complete and I carried my camera everywhere I went. I took on small photography jobs making enough money to buy more equipment.”
Alfred continued to support his hobby for many years to come taking on wedding jobs and corporate events. During and after college he worked at Newmark Gallery as a picture framer, then salesperson and ultimately gallery director. After the closing of Newmark Gallery, due to the untimely death of the owners, Carlos Pacheco and Tony Graham, in 1991 and 1992, respectively, Alfred opened Gallery 71, in 1994. 19 years after the opening of Gallery 71, Alfred decided to exhibit his photographs in his own gallery. His first exhibit was in December, 2013, where he featured his portfolio of images taken in Paris in the year 2000 and 2001, while on vacation with his wife Eileen and two daughters Amalia and Natalia. His photographs were well received and Alfred’s professional photographic career as an artist was well on its way after so many years. Some of the attendees at his exhibit, who have known him since childhood, asked why he did not feature his images of NY that they were so familiar with and so the following year Alfred released a series of approximately 20 images of New York, taken in the 1980’s. Most of these images were taken in El Barrio, NY, where Alfred was raised. Three images in the show of the World Trade Center caught the eye of Mrs. Jan Ramirez, Chief Curator at the 911 Memorial Museum. She presented them to the selection committee and shortly there after they were added the museum’s permanent collection. These pieces are entitled, “World Trade Center Memories”, “WTC Shadows” and “Revolving Door WTC”. In June, 2017, Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of the City of New York, added ten of Alfred’s photographs to the museum’s permanent collection and most recently the New York Historical Society has added 14 of Alfred’s photographs to their permanent collection as well. His photographs have also been added to the collections of Ms. Agnes Gund, President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, Director and film maker Spike Lee, Abbe Raven chairman emeritus of A + E Networks, to name a few. As of March, 2019, Ms. Marilyn Kushner, Curator and Head of the Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections of the New York Historical Society, added 14 of Alfred’s photographs to the museum’s permanent collection.
Alfred has participated in two charitable auctions – 2015 & 2016 “Friends Without A Boarder”, to benefit children’s healthcare in Asia and “The Josephine Herrick Project” - 2015, a non-profit organization providing a broad range of photography programs, providing training, direction and equipment to undeserved communities. Alfred feels an obligation to give back for all that he has received during his photographic journey. He has also recently participated in the 5th annual Exposure Award hosted by SeeMe Exhibitions. Although he did not win any of the awards being offered he received an official letter of recognition from the organizers. This letter thanked him for his participation and also stated that his photograph “View from Arc de Triomphe” was used in a digital display during the award ceremony which took place at the Museee du Louvre in Paris. “Wow, I can actually say I’ve shown at the Louvre”, expressed Alfred to a crowd of people at his second show.
Alfred is currently working his way through hundreds of negatives of pictures he has taken, from the early 1980’s to present as he continues to run his art gallery. A big dilemma for him has been making the switch from film to digital and he is not quite sure if it will happen anytime soon, or at all, as he has recently purchased a film based 4 x 5 view camera. There will be more to come for sure…
Artist’s Statement – for Alfred González’s first show, 2013
After 19 years of owning my own art gallery I have finally decided to exhibit my photographs for the first time ever. As far back as I can remember I have always been a photographer - starting with the first time I ever looked through a camera lens. I can remember it as if it were yesterday; climbing up in a closet at home with the help of my twin brother Ricky, we tied a belt around the pole where the clothes hang from, I reached for, my older brother, Ibrahim's camera. What happened next, although exciting for me, was disastrous for Ibrahim. The camera, not being able to defy gravity, made its final clicking sound as it came crashing down on the linoleum floor of my grandmother's bedroom. I must have been about three or four years old and as I picked up the pieces, there I was sitting on the floor looking through the lens that had broken away from the camera my father had given to Ibrahim, a twin lens Yashica. I can only remember my fascination of looking through that lens at that very moment not knowing how it would affect me for the rest of my life.
So here we are 48 years later and I decided it was time to share my passion of a medium that has frozen moments in time for so many generations and has captured precious memories for us all and will continue to do so as long as people are willing to share in the experience by viewing the photographer's point of view - in this case mine...
A write-up by Ed McCormack
The exquisitely selective eye that has made Alfred Gonzalez’s Gallery 71 an Upper East Side landmark as an oasis for prints and paintings by realists ranging from the great 19th century Ashcan School master John Sloan to the contemporary watercolorist Marion Welch, is everywhere evident in the first exhibition of Gonzalez’s own photography.
Although Gonzalez, who grew up in Spanish Harlem and was educated at Manhattanville College and Pratt Institute, has been taking pictures since childhood, his photography has been a well-kept secret up to now. This selection, featuring austere black and white images of Paris notable for their formal beauty and contemplative content, will doubtless add a hyphen and the word “artist” to this respected gallery director’s job description.
One standout among the several archival pigment prints on view was “Homage to Harold Altman, in which Gonzalez pays tribute to one of his gallery artists with an atmospheric image of a lone figure on a bench in a public park, viewed from a certain distance, the chiaroscuro of the surrounding foliage suggesting the subtly stippled surfaces of Altman’s own paintings and prints. Another was of his daughter entitled “Amalia,” an engaging rear view of a little girl sitting on a curb, her thick black pigtails dangling down the back of her white dress as she gazes dreamily across a picturesquely cobblestoned street. Yet another, “Love on the Seine,” captures the public contortions of a couple on a stone bench near the fabled river of that romantic city.
This exemplary debut exhibition firmly establishes Alfred Gonzalez as a colleague in vision of the fine artists he has exhibited and championed for going on two decades.
–– Ed McCormack
Managing Editor, Gallery & Studio magazine, December, 2013
A note from Robert Farber, photographer
“What a wonderful creative surprise to see the images of Alfred Gonzalez...”
“Not only does Alfred capture a sense of Paris with the same sensitivity of the master French photographers of the past, but he adds a unique edge; as evident in the way he juxtaposes the image of a delicate painting with a steel iron girder. Though his photographic talents may be new to me, it's obvious that we're seeing works captured by a seasoned eye.”