THE BRONX — When artist Matteo Pellegrinuzzi was visiting The Bronx last summer, he noticed that the borough had a very similar reputation to his neighborhood in Paris, La Villette—one that he thinks is undeserved.
"If you talk about La Villette, people say, 'Don’t go there. It’s dangerous, even today,'" he said, "and it’s not. The security, men, women, feel they are not in danger."
Pellegrinuzzi said he viewed The Bronx in a similar light, as the borough still has a reputation as the poster child for urban decay despite seeing a sharp decrease in crime over the past few decades and a large amount of interest from real estate developers, to the point where many locals are now concerned about gentrification.
"I saw a normal place without any danger," Pellegrinuzzi said of his time in The Bronx. "And maybe, like in every town, there are dangerous places, but no more than in other parts of the world."
He took several photos of people in the borough with the help of Alexandra Maruri, a friend and the leader of Bronx Historical Tours, and they will be on display along with images of people from La Villette at the Bibliothèque Claude Levi-Strauss in Paris from Oct. 4 until Oct. 28, according to Pellegrinuzzi's website.
Visitors are meant to compare the images from The Bronx with the images from La Villette, and Pellegrinuzzi said he expects people to see elements of themselves reflected in the photographs.
Although Maruri said she will not be able to attend the exhibit in Paris, she is working on finding a space in The Bronx where it could be set up, making it easier for residents of the borough to see an exhibit they are a part of.
She hopes the photographs will help The Bronx shed the negative reputation it has, as she deals with several tourists who come to the borough expecting it to be filled with gangs and danger.
"That’s a common thing that I hear a lot from tourists," Maruri said, "and then when they see The Bronx, they’re like, 'Oh my gosh! It’s not what I expected.'"
Pellegrinuzzi said he hopes the exhibit shows visitors that, despite what they may have heard about a certain part of the globe, people are still just people no matter where they live.
"I think that someone looking at my pictures can see any sort of people you can meet in the street in any way in any city in the world," he said. "They can recognize a normal face."