As a massive outdoor photography show, Photoville is the opposite of being in a gallery.
That’s what co-founder Sam Barzilay was going for after running an art gallery for five years. He began to recognize the psychological barrier of entering the enclosed atmosphere: For those who knew they weren’t going to purchase anything, strolling the corridors of artwork seemed meaningless.
He envisioned something entirely different, however, when he and his two co-founders, Dave Shelley and Laura Roumanos, mapped out the plan for Photoville, a free, outdoor weeklong photo festival in Brooklyn Bridge Plaza housed inside repurposed shipping containers.
“It’s not just coming to a gallery and seeing a show,” explains Barzilay. “You come into this space and you’re completely surrounded and separated from your daily life for a moment. Once you step into the containers, you’re completely engulfed by this world.
“It’s an espresso shot versus a cup of drip coffee,” he says. “You’re getting it all at once.”
Five years later, Photoville has become one of the largest photographic events in New York City, offering a mix of curated exhibitions from veteran photojournalists and prestigious print publications, to graduate student showcases and fine art practitioners.
This year, the more than 60 exhibits will include a group of lighter pieces while also tackling issues of gun violence, inequality and international crisis — all free.
We’ve highlighted five standout exhibits:
“America Point Blank”
The summer of 2016 has reignited the national conversation about gun control. In what Barzilay refers to as a “phenomenally important piece,” photojournalists, documentary and art photographers from Fovea Exhibitions have come together to answer the question: how did we get here, and more importantly, how do we stop the bloodbath?
Honoring the legendary, yet humble photographer known for his eccentric style and pursuit of candid moments on the streets of Manhattan, this exhibit, presented by his longtime employer The New York Times, will celebrate Bill Cunningham’s contributions to the world of fashion. “It feels like the right thing to do, to acknowledge someone’s life work when they never sought out to do it themselves,” says Barzilay.
Maloney’s stark images explore the despair of families seeking refuge from ongoing conflict in Homs, Syria, as they text loved ones still under siege. Taken from inside their tents set up within an abandoned slaughterhouse, the shots capture the glow of their screens, illuminating messages of uncertainty and pleas for God’s help.
“Signs of Your Identity”
In an effort to portray the Canadian government’s efforts to assimilate young indigenous students into Canadian culture, Daniella Zalcam’s black-and-white portraits of Native Americans juxtaposed with opaque sketches of their past come together to depict the remnants of their lives after the Indian Residential Schools that brutally stripped them of their identity.
Here we are 50 years after the civil rights movement, but how far have we really gotten? That was the angle the NYC-based collective of African American photographers, Kamoinge, utilized to compose their exhibit, which will confront issues of inequality, injustice, separation and xenophobia in modern-day America. “It’s a beautiful collection of images,” says Barzilay. “There’s harrowing moments and beautiful moments, but it’s horrifying to see some of the images from the late ’60s, and think that those photos could have been taken last year.”