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BY Elizabeth Hinton | PUBLICATION Los Angeles Times
The recent spate of shootings, rising extremism, protests and counter-protests have left our society on edge. Police brutality against black Americans inspired Dallas shooter Micah Xavier Johnson to murder cops; in St Paul, Minn., police officers clad in riot gear launched tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who returned fire with rocks and glass bottles; former Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted: “This is now war… watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” He claims to have received more than 17,000 death threats in response.
Photographer – New York
Benedict J. Fernandez was born on April 5, 1936 in New York City, in the Hispanic neighborhood of East Harlem. His father came to America via Puerto Rico, and his mother an Italian American. His photographic education began at age six when he was given a Brownie box camera.
His early career was not in photography. He worked as an operating engineer/crane operator at Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Hoboken. It was as a crane operator, that he photographed his fellow shipyard workers, which became his first major portfolio “Riggers”. He went on to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in the same capacity, until the facility closed in 1963. At that time he decided to turn his long time hobby into his life’s work. He came to the attention of Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director and graphic designer. Brodovitch invited him to enroll in his Design Laboratory and became Fernandez’s most influential mentor. Brodovitch arranged for Ben to become the darkroom tech and manager at Parsons School of Design. Nobody could have imagined in those very early days what a significant role Ben would eventually play at Parsons.
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The tone of America today feels like America in the late 1960s, which was similarly riven by cyclical violence and discontent. Our elected officials and law enforcement authorities can learn from how their predecessors responded to civil unrest — but mostly by negative example.
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