Mr. Carlos A. Foster, Jr.
Words & Images © Lelanie Foster.
On the first day I photograph my uncle, ironically he talks to me about the idea of everyone doing their part to contribute to society and sings me a Bob Dylan song that goes, “how many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?…how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”
For me, the American Landscape theme represents American stories and realities; national issues that garner attention and those that don’t. I chose to convey this interpretation by photographing my Tío (uncle) Charlie whose story represents many among our national landscape.
Tío came to the The Bronx as a young teenager from Cuba with his family. He is the oldest boy and my grandfather’s junior. He helped my dad when he struggled with math in school and taught him the importance of dressing well and looking his best. My Abuela laughs about all the girls that were after Tío and my aunt says, “you know he was a ladies’ man!”
Tío was drafted to fight in Vietnam in his early 20s. Abuela says he came home strong and manly but he also came home scarred mentally and has suffered from PTSD and schizophrenia. Stripped of his manhood and dignity, since his return, Tío has endured homelessness, poverty, inability to hold work, and insufficient government benefits. The country my uncle gave his life for hasn’t given nearly enough back. Tío’s survival is a result of family love, care and unwillingness to give up on him.
My goal was to portray my uncle in a way that acknowledges his dignity and manhood. My hope is that my images allow viewers to see and respect a man whose American story is often not recognized in our national landscape.
YPA 2016 MENTORING PROGRAM: AMERICAN LANDSCAPES
TEAM NEW YORK
MENTOR: Barry Rosenthal
MENTEE: Lelanie Foster