Photoville was back in town last week. Now in its fifth year, the pop-up festival hosted by United Photo Industries was once again the go-to destination for photo lovers in New York. Located in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, directly beneath its namesake, Photoville might have looked from the outside like a street fair set amid a jumble of shipping containers. The containers, some stacked atop one another, served as narrow galleries presenting all manner of photography.
Each shipping container had a sponsor, usually a photo agency, publisher, nonprofit, or university. While most participating schools displayed recent work by a professor or recent graduates, Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration filled its gallery with high-resolution images of the moon made by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. The New York Times celebrated the street fashion images of the late Bill Cunningham, displaying the zany world of New York City fashion through the decades as the themed montages appeared in print. There was also a gallery containing images from VII founder Ron Haviv’s stellar recent project and book The Lost Rolls: damaged and previously undeveloped images from his decades of documentary image-making.
Most of the photographs presented dealt with weighty subjects of social justice and global affairs. Galleries featured striking images of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, and the travails of refugees around the world. Other projects tackled gun violence, gender identity, incarceration, gentrification, and teen selfie culture. Interspersed among these sober presentations were lighter projects, such as portraits of pit bulls wearing bouquets of flowers and Mexico’s Luncha Libre wrestlers.
In addition to photography, many galleries presented installations, multimedia, or interactive features. Among the more unique offerings was by the photojournalism magazine ZEKE, which coordinated with photographers documenting life in the Caucus to be present via a live two-way feed with their subjects in Georgia and Armenia, allowing visitors to talk through an interpreter to the families that were photographed.
In addition to work being presented, Photoville offered a robust series of lectures, workshops, tours, youth activities, slide shows, film screenings, and even an all-day professional development conference for photographers. As to be expected, cameras were everywhere. While the Penumbra Foundation was busy making 4 x 5 tintypes, visitors were snapping away with everything from Roloflexes to Impossible 1-Ls, and every type of digital camera imaginable. Of course, it helped that the Leica tent was loaning their cameras out to anyone who wanted to give one a try for 90 minutes.
Photoville may be over, but United Photo Industry’s other project, “The FENCE,” will remain on display on the fences around Brooklyn Bridge Park through September. A juried exhibition of 40 photography projects displayed on a series of 1250-foot long banners, the FENCE has also been shown this summer in Atlanta, Boston, Houston, and Santa Fe. With beautiful weather and picturesque views of the Manhattan skyline across the river, Photoville received tens of thousands of visitors this year, likely the most ever in its five years of operation. The crowds were right to come, and were rewarded with an amazing collection of imagery and activities.
Photoville ran from Wednesday, September 21 through Sunday, September 25.
W.G. Beecher is an editor for Don't Take Pictures.