Born in Brooklyn, Groana Melendez was raised between New York City and Santo Domingo. Her parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1970’s from their hometown in the Dominican Republic, in search of better opportunity, and to pursue the “American Dream.”
Through her photographs, Groana attempts to create a connection with her family. A connection that became fragile due to long periods of absence. She executes this by shooting portraits of her relatives and capturing the spaces they inhabit. In the process, she explores issues pertaining to familial relationships, class, and a finds a more profound understanding of her heritage and roots.
Groana graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Photography from Syracuse University. She has exhibited internationally with her first solo show held at New York’s Public Library and has been published in Nueva Luz and Latina Magazine. She is currently based in New York City where she is continuing her series.
“The primary focus of my work is the exploration of identity through the medium of portraits. I explore Dominican and American identity as seen through my own experience. I photograph relatives in the Dominican Republic, where my parents are originally from, and in the United States, where my parents emigrated.
I seek to immortalize my family from my own memories. It began as an archive system for myself, which soon became something much deeper and personal. Images of my family members from when I was a child are still very lucid. I then attempt to capture the recollection of memories combined with reality to make a depiction of each relative.
I act as both a participant and an observer. There are different class dimensions in my family: those who can afford certain luxuries, versus those who live day by day. Judgments and prejudices are made from one part of the family to the other, and I have attempted to move between the two.
As a person with dual identity, Dominican and American, I am an insider and an outsider. I have taken the benefits of a Western canon of photography and my privileges as an insider to allow me access into these worlds. The images are taken during moments of leisure where my subjects feel at ease and no one appears destitute. The style and detached manner in which I take them are as an outsider, thus allowing a freedom of expression while still creating a document.”