A devotee to the science of psychology and photography Al attempts to refocus the importance of subtlety inside the human experience. He stated, “to achieve that in which is beyond man’s habitual comprehension one must acquire the sense of listening with more than just ears and eyes.”

He emphasizes the ‘why’ and ‘how’, used to frame his examination of cultures and the individual within it.

With his past background in fashion and commercial photography he’s been published in several international magazines and hired by companies such as Avery Dennison, Moët Hennessy, Under Armour, Cognizant, and others.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Remnants of an Exodus

2018 (Ongoing – 2019)

Flanked by a creek on the east side of the park in Spring Valley, New York, has seen the transformation of a culture that bears little resemblance of what it once was. To the west of the park is Main Street where gentrification took hold. Just south are two churches; one in which helps feed the homeless, and the other seeing its congregations dwindle.

Drugs, guns and violence have been plaguing the community since the 80’s resulting in the decimation of the young black family. Most of the blame was congruously laid on mayors tethered with corruption as people of color either began to move out or were put behind bars. The Jewish religious community has exponentially outgrown the city of Monsey as businessmen continue to steadily buy up properties surrounding the park.

Growing up through the mid 90’s, I heard bullhorns and saw scores of kids competing on basketball courts. Today, I can still hear the squeaks of sneakers on the concrete, but only in memory. We all loved hearing those cool stinging sounds of motorcycle wheels all the way from the notoriously known Hill Top – a place my mother had warned me of.

In early 2018, I once more familiarized myself with the park I grew up knowing. As I photographed its deterioration and the few that are still connected I saw myself reliving those memories. I stumbled upon a few men just around my age. They briskly reminded me how they haven’t seen me in over 20 years. One would ask, “you still live up the road?” I’d walk through and memorialize what was once an echo chamber of black youth culture. And you won’t find much of us around here like before.

© Al Thompson

© Al Thompson

© Al Thompson

© Al Thompson

When and where did Remnants of an Exodus begin?

I initially wanted to capture the lives of the black community as a whole since 2016 but I had a lot of things going on during that time. And that was a good thing because I needed to focus all my attention on this one specific project. In the early part of 2018 I decided to do both research and walk the streets of Spring Valley, New York (45 mins from NYC). I immediately stumbled on the park and that’s when I reestablished a sense of connection there. I literally saw guys around that I haven’t seen in over 20 years. And that stuck with me because I was in shock to see the results on their faces. Actually, the pain and bent up frustration isn’t what I’m seeing anymore. It’s the last stages in acceptance of defeat.

I then decided to commit all my energy and emotions at the park. For the most part, people have welcomed me around. And I even made a few friends along the way.

Where do you see this project going?

I have a few different projects that I’m simultaneously shooting. They all have the ability to morph into a book. This one is no different, though more challenging because of the nature of the location - exclusively photographed in and around the park. My plan is to complete photographing this by summer of 2019. However, things may change depending whether I get what I want, creatively speaking. I’m already speaking with a couple galleries for ongoing exhibits, but a book would be ideal in channeling exactly what I want to put out.

What helps you sustain your current creative practice?

My project really is about the humanitarian side of things. The everyday issues [in this case] are things that keep me up at nights. A story such as this one is unique within its own right, but ironically reflects similar societal patterns. Ultimately, not everyone wins. Maybe it’s naivety, but wouldn’t it be great that we all can somehow win? These are my burning desires, many of which drive my creativity.

But at the same time I think creatively. I can honestly say that my brain is wired like that. I just don’t know how NOT to be creative.

On some practical level, I attend exhibits, talk to my colleagues, and watch The Ten Commandments over and over again. We know religion came before this. But it’s fascinating how such a movie made in 1956 have sparked global religious movements. Now that’s inspiring.

What’s next for you?

As I said earlier, I’ll be hitting the photo gallery market sometime next year. There are a few publications that touched base with me. The main thing is to get the information out there, which is my primary focus. I’m not in it for personal gain.