Andy Chen runs Best Color, one of the remaining 1-hour photo studios in New York City. With digital photography now being the standard, he knows his business develops its last rolls of film after a 26-year run at 4509 5th Avenue, in Brooklyn.
A Bloomberg report on Census data found last year that there were only 190 one-hour photo shops in 2013, down from 3,066 in 1998.
He is also facing the wave of gentrification that are pushing out the old staples that held together neighborhoods. Yet, he’s not bitter about it. His is more melancholy than anything else.
Because when he closes his Sunset Park shop in May, he will leave behind almost three decades of documenting faces and rituals of this Latino enclave.
“Everything changes,” he says with a smile.
Everything, including him.
Just as Chen, 56, saw this neighborhood go from Puerto Rican to Dominican and then to Mexican, he learned the traditions of these once unknown communities, and even learned their language and how to dance bachata.
“¡Increíble!,” he exclaims in Spanish before bursting into laughter.
For this Taiwanese immigrant, his job became his life; his customers became his friends; his friends became his family. All arranged in a composition that soon will become a memory, just like the photographs that made him.