Meet Your Neighbor: Adolfo Steve Vazquez

Before my father moved to California in the nineties, he and I used to spend all of our time walking the streets of New York City. We'd talk for hours about what he was reading or writing at the time. He was such a passionate guy, and I was never able to keep up with him.

In 2012, he moved back to New York with serious health issues. After a month, he collapsed, and our plans to continue exploring New York together were put on hold. I'd visit him in the hospital, and on the way, I’d take pictures of my commute to keep him connected to the outside world.  We’d catch up by looking at the pictures together and talking about how things have changed. I never knew I had a talent for photography, so I was surprised when he'd compliment my shots. During that last month, we’d sit in the hospital room everyday, exploring New York like we'd planned to, one photo at a time.

After he passed away, I decided to keep going. I set off with my kids to explore all the neighborhoods in Queens, because that’s what my father did with me. I went to Wikipedia, found a list of 120 Queens neighborhoods, and in thirty days, visited thirty different neighborhoods. I’d pick a landmark, take a picture, write a bio and share it on Instagram. That’s how @Queenscapes began.

Then the feedback started coming in. It was tremendous. People would comment on the things I was writing, giving me even more to learn from. My goal was always to be a fly on the wall - that regular guy no one notices. Then Queenscapes became popular. NY1 filmed me, news articles were written, and people took notice.  A team formed around the Queenscapes mission. We started a website and began hosting meet-ups and photo exhibits.

Now I’m recognized as a photographer and social media influencer, and on May 2, I will be awarded the 2018 Queens Community Builder Award at Queens Community House’s Celebrating Local Champions Reception. I never saw any of this coming, but I’m grateful and humbled as the support for Queenscapes continues to grow. And I’ll never forget where it all began; in those last days with my father, my inspiration.

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