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Galerie Bene Taschen opens an exhibition of photographs by Joseph Rodriguez
Joseph Rodriguez, TAXI Series, 220 West Houston Street, NY 1984 © Joseph Rodriguez, courtesy Galerie Bene Taschen.

COLOGNE.- New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s – Joseph Rodriguez sits behind the wheel of his taxi. During his shifts, he created his first photographic works, documenting everyday life from the perspective of a worker on the job. TAXI: Journey Through My Windows 1977 – 1987 takes viewers back 30 years to the past of the most famous metropolis in the world.

From his taxi, Rodriguez begins to capture the moments whizzing by with his camera. He goes from Manhattan to the Bronx, from Queens to New Jersey, from Brooklyn to Staten Island, from Downtown to Uptown, from the Meatpacking District to the East Village, and back to Midtown Manhattan. During his shifts as a “traveling flaneur” he also witnesses the darker sides of life on the street.

His routes are unpredictable, as are the encounters that become his motifs. The taxi driver’s gaze sees prostitutes waiting for customers, homeless people begging for a few cents, and the dreary facades of buildings that reach for the sky. Houses and cars fly by in the rearview and side mirrors; at the red light, a father pushes a stroller across the street. A peek into the back seat of the cab reveals his passengers: depending on the time of day or night, they could be well-heeled Upper East Siders, partygoers out on the town, or families en route to Sunday Mass.

Like the 1976 film classic Taxi Driver, Rodriguez captures the pulsating life of New York City in his images. Both these works – the feature film and the photographs – also bear witness to the fascinating aura of taxi drivers, who, in turn, use their cars as silent observation posts. Rodriguez’s photographs convey the emotional complexity of the people he meets, and serve as a pinhole for the stories and insights jotted down in his diary. His images can be seen in the exhibition as silver gelatin prints.

For Rodriguez, who was once a self-described drug addict and criminal, photography saved his life.

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