Sam Barzilay knows how hard it can be to motivate yourself to get out to a museum.
In 2012, when he co-founded Photoville, the free outdoor photography exhibition that takes over Brooklyn Bridge Plaza for two weekends every September, the idea was “to get photography and art not where you want people to go, but where they’re already going,” as he puts it. “You put it in parks and plazas, in the streets so people are already walking by.”
The festival has indeed attracted both DUMBO passersby and art enthusiasts with its creative display mechanism: shipping containers repurposed into mini-galleries.
“The shipping container is the lifeblood of waterfront commerce,” says the 38-year-old. “We thought, how cool would it be if we could bring back that connection of the pier with the container, and have art to support the galleries — [merging] the old and the new.”
Now in its sixth year, Photoville will pack in nearly 60 shipping-container-galleries under the Brooklyn Bridge. But Barzilay says that he and cofounders Dave Shelley and Laura Romanos have focused on new and creative ways to "expand and activate" other areas of the park.
Photoville is not so much bigger this year as it is denser. Photos are also displayed in four-foot-tall wooden "Emergi-Cubes," lining the walls of a 1960s Shasta RV, or strung along a vinyl banner wrapping around the plaza’s perimeter.
Beyond the installations, there’s a host of programming, including panels and presentations, workshops and nightly screenings in the Photoville Beer Garden, where you’ll find Smorgasburg food vendors and beer from Brooklyn Brewery.
Here are five must-see exhibitions this year.
A year ago, photographer Ron Haviv put out a call for submissions of undeveloped film rolls from folks all over the country. He received an archive of American nostalgia, from footage of Vietnam War protests to everyday moments of family and friends. At Photoville, the developed and digitized prints line the walls of a ‘60s Shasta RV, bordered by a white picket fence. Barzilay teases that a Brownie troupe will serve lemonade.
Four-foot-high wooden boxes scattered throughout the festival will display work from 11 lesser-known and emerging artists, selected and curated by the founders of the New York Times Lens Blog, James Estrin and David Gonzalez. Don’t miss “Abuelas: Portraits of the Invisible Grandmothers,” Cinthya Santos Briones’ intimate portraits of undocumented Mexican immigrants.
Displayed in six-foot-high wooden cubes, this global exhibition commissioned by the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) features two photo series that capture “different communities helping other communities in distress,” explains Barzilay. In the first, photographer Vincent Tremeau depicts the Nigerian refugee experience in Niger; and in the second, photographers Stefano Carini and Rawsht Twana tell the story of Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, this depiction of world-wide wreckage caused by global warming couldn’t come at a more apt time. The exhibition from New York Times photojournalist Josh Haner combines awesome and terrifying drone footage and still photos.
Now for some levity. For most of us, who will never see “Hamilton,” these photos from the hit musical will either scratch the itch — or torment us even more. Josh Lehrer’s black and white portraits of the show’s stars were taken with antique cameras and lenses to show how the modernized history is truly timeless.
Photoville opens Wednesday, Sept. 13 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 17. It returns Thursday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 24. More info at photoville.com.