MANUEL RIVERA-ORTIZ photographs the poor and disenfranchised around the world. His photographic stories of hardship and hope in some of the world’s poorest nations serve as a testament to the life he himself experienced growing up in backwater barrios of Guayama, Puerto Rico.
Current events, popular culture and mass media tend not to play a role in Rivera-Ortiz’ images. Instead, his work has more to do with the universality of poverty, the presence of hope in adversity and the dignity of people living in distress. The landless, the forgotten, all play an integral role in the greater message of Rivera-Ortiz’ images: that no matter what, all life is sacred and every human on earth deserves the opportunity of a healthy, happy existence.
Manuel Rivera-Ortiz has traveled many corners of the world from India to Kenya, Bolivia to Cuba, Thailand to Turkey and beyond. His major projects include the Mumbai slums Dharavi and Baiganwadi in India, the indigenous Aymara in the Andes and Altiplano regions in Bolivia and his breakout collection on tobacco workers of the Viñales Valley in Cuba.
After leaving Puerto Rico in the fall of 1979, Rivera-Ortiz moved with his family to Holyoke, MA, where he attended Lawrence Elementary School. While living there he also attended summer school for the children of migrant workers at Mount Holyoke College, and at Springfield College where he took up the camera for the first time. In Rochester, NY, Rivera-Ortiz attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School, and East High School.
Images from Rivera-Ortiz’s work are now in the permanent collections of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. His work is also found at Columbia University’s Joseph Pulitzer Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, Lehigh University Art Galleriescollection in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd in Zurich and other private and corporate collections. Rivera-Ortiz’ photography is included in several books including the literary collection titled “Voices in First Person: Reflections On Latino Identity” (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008). His work can also be found in the Colombian photography publication “Percepciones en Blanco & Negro” (Adéer Lynad, Colombia).
Rivera-Ortiz is currently working on his third and first solo book of photography. Rivera-Ortiz’ work was recently added to the Hallmark Collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.