Michael Kamber was a war photographer for The New York Times, covering conflicts in West African nations, the Middle East and beyond. When his colleague and friend Tim Hetherington lost his life covering conflicts in Libya in 2011, Kamber returned to New York, where he opened the Bronx Documentary Center, an art gallery and educational space at 614 Courtlandt Ave. in Melrose. The BDC provides technical training and insight into photojournalism and documentary film-making. It frequently hosts film screenings and photo exhibitions.
Why did you open here?
I lived here in the ’80s, my family was from here, I used to come here as a child and you know, I just love the Bronx. I thought people were friendlier up here, it was just a more interesting more dynamic place, and it was also a place where you could make a difference.
How has the BDC benefited the nabe?
We did an exhibition on gun violence and we’re actually creating a coalition against gun violence based on the exhibition. People that came to the exhibition are starting this coalition with us, so that’s exciting. We’ve got an afterschool photo program and we’ve just got a great bunch of Bronx good kids who are taking great photos and really doing good stuff.
How did locals react when you first opened?
I would say initially people were a little perplexed, but pretty quickly folks came around and saw that we were doing something positive. There’s not too many art spaces in the South Bronx, especially that focus on photography and film. I’m not sure that there are any that really focus on photography and film, so I think that people in the beginning were kind of scratching their heads, but almost immediately — I mean our first event had 600 people and it’s just been packed ever since.