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Chantal Heijnen | United States

Gilbert’s bedroom, his sanctuary - University Avenue, 2006

In this ongoing series, I present an insider’s view of everyday life in my adopted neighborhood: University Heights in the South Bronx. Outsiders mostly know the Bronx for its troubled past. But on the inside, the Bronx is a hidden gem.

The Bronx is part of the most expensive city in the U.S., but its 1.4 million inhabitants constitute one of the lowest income areas of the nation. 
Yet, despite the challenges they face, most Bronxites show pride and self-respect.

My project started when I formed a friendship with Gilbert, a special education teacher, who has lived in the Bronx since 1968. In 2008, Gilbert gave me the opportunity to share a space in his apartment, and pursue my long-held ambition to photograph individuals from rarely seen communities.

As I gained the trust of this community, and found neighbors who let me document their lives, I became exhilarated by their resilience. All my portraits spring from relationships I have built, and are set in places where my subjects feel most comfortable—their homes, the streets they frequent, and places of worship. 

The New York Times

"She has carefully rendered her adopted borough in a series of softly lighted portraits with warm, rich tones. The paint-encrusted walls and plastic-covered furniture are familiar to anyone who has spent time in the area where she began her portrait series, which is known as University Heights, just south of Fordham Road. So, too, are the faces — alternately weary, serene or happy".


David Gonzalez, The New York Times - Lens Blog, November 14th 2011

Chantal Heijnen (b. 1976, The Netherlands) is a portrait and documentary photographer based in The Bronx, New York. In 2000 she received a BA in Social Work, and worked for almost 10 years as a refugee counselor. In 2008 she graduated with honors with a BA in Photography from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam. Her love for photography is what brought her to New York. She has worked as an editorial photographer for international newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Stern, Vrij Nederland.

She’s passionate about her long-term personal projects, creating portraits - through people and landscapes - of rarely seen communities. Chantal goes where the story takes her, following the narrative as it presents itself to her, but always originating from the people she portrays. Chantal carefully uses color and light. Using Rembrandt-like ochre and lustrous crimson lighting, her portraits breathe the ambiance of the old Dutch Masters.

Chantal Heijnen

+1 646-724-0760


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