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Ruben Natal San Miguel

A blinged-out necklace with the iconic Barbie signage sparkled on the streets of NYC last year, catching photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel‘s eyes. Adorning the neck of a young, gay African-American male, the shot plays on gender, sexual orientation, class and race with its mix of elements here, juxtaposing with what Barbie has long represented—the girl next door, the symbol of female perfection (no matter how unrealistic), and the American Dream.

The image reflects a sure sign of the times, says the photographer, “people can be themselves out on the streets without the fear of retaliation and discrimination that prevailed on decades back since Stonewall.”

Barbie, along with many other works, is currently on view in Up, Close & Personal, a group show curated by Natal-San Miguel at Fuchs Projects in Bushwick, Brooklyn through May 13th. Featuring over 30 contemporary photographers, the collection explores the relationships these artists have to their intimate, personal bodies of work—the idea, the approach, the process along the way.

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