Adeline Lulo Looks at Family Life in the Dominican Republic

By David Schonauer   Monday July 31, 2017

Adeline Lulo  was born in Washington Heights, New York, and raised in the Bronx.

But she spent her childhood summers in the Dominican Republic, where her family came from. “The Dominican Republic is a place I call home,” she says. “I couldn’t explain it, but I understood that my life in the Dominican Republic was very different from my life in New York. When I wasn’t chasing roosters or trying to catch lizards, I was eating mangos from my grandfather’s tree or shouting ‘se fue la luz’ when the lights when out.”

In 2013 Lulo began a project she calls “Si Dios Quiere (God Willing),” which portrays the lives of families in the Dominican Republic, as well as Dominican immigrants living in the United States. The series was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 5  competition, and we feature it today.

“The work is shaped around family, history and memory,” she says. “When I was a child my parents took my sister and I home to their native land, where they introduced us to our roots, family and friends. Once I was of legal age to work in U.S., my summer visits to my motherland came to an end. The project began as a way to reconnect with my friends, family and community. My mother would take me with her to visit the families, give clothing and paying respect to those who were ill. The custom of visiting everyone in the barrio played a significant role in my childhood.”

During her visits to the Dominican Republic, Lulo spent most of her time at her grandparents’ home in the campo, or countryside, and many of the images in her project reflect memories of that place. “Abuelo’s home was located in a rural area named Hincha that is found within the city of Moca,” she says. “I became aware that life in the countryside was very different than life in the U.S. We had frequent blackouts and limited water.”

Lulo’s grandfather moved to New York in the 1970s, and in 1985 he returned to the Dominican Republic, where he dedicated himself to growing plantains and cassava. The image below,  titled “Plantación de Abuelo,” was taken in 2013, when Lulo began the series.

“In this photo I feel as if the horse symbolizes my grandfather. It represents his field, which was his passion, his happiness and what he lived for,” she says. “On Thursday, August 18, 2016, after returning home from a full day of work in the field, he felt ill. The very next day he passed away. My grandfather was 86 years old and continued to work every single day of his life until his very last day alive.”

The project’s title comes from a saying Lulo heard her entire life. “It is a belief used by Dominicans expressing that everything happens according to what God has planned for you. By custom we put God first so that he can guide us towards the things we would like to achieve, and if it does not happen it is understood that it was not in God’s plan and we accept that. I used color film to grasp the beauty that I found in the Dominican Republic. I am looking at the textures and conditions of the shanty styled architecture where they live their lives — creating a perception of the spaces we inhabit.”

In 2015, Lulo expanded the project to include Dominicans in Washington Heights, New York — the largest concentration of Dominicans in the United Sates. “Roughly 675,000 Dominican’s live full or part time in New York City. We have succeeded in molding a place for ourselves within the American landscape,” she says. “We have carved out a society with a distinct cultural identity, creating a strong unified Dominican community. In migrating to the U.S., Dominicans have carried their roots and traditions with them."

Lulo, who earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design, was recently selected as a recipient for the Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) Award. She was also the recipient of the En Foco Photography Fellowship and William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship. Besides being recognized by the LAF competition, her work has been seen in The New York Times.


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