Get ready shutterbugs and all those in love with the art of still image, Photoville, the critically acclaimed outdoor photography exhibit, is opening this Wednesday, September 21, at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Now in its fifth year, Photoville has become New York’s premier photography exhibition, featuring photographers of all levels and from all over the world, all of whom will descend upon the East River to interact and display their work. The event is for all ages and is completely free.
The exhibition is constructed from 80 re-purposed shipping containers lined inside and out with thousands of photographs from over 60 different shows. Each show is comprised of one or more artist working in conjunction to create a unique body of work.
“There’s something for everyone, with shows focusing on fine art, sports, fashion and current events, including a show curated by NYC Municipal Archives that displays crime scene photography.”
Creative Director and Cofounder Sam Barzilay calls Photoville a “snowball turned avalanche,” nearly doubling its size over the years, receiving upwards of 300 submissions from across the globe; featuring over 400 individual artists and drawing a crowd of over 72,000 visitors in 2015.
The event’s current popularity and prevalence is no small feat, considering its relatively meager roots: Beginning as a feature of the 2011 DUMBO Arts Festival, and running under the title Photo Pods, the first show involved five shipping containers set up along Main Street and included only a handful of artists.
The initial idea was to erect tiny galleries for the festival, and as United Photo Industries (UPI) members agreed, shipping containers would be the most cost effective yet courageous way of presenting each photographer’s work.
The project was well received, even catching the eye of Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer who requested that UPI arrange a similar event for the following summer.
In 2012, UPI returned to Brooklyn Bridge Park, parking at Pier 3 with 27 shipping containers and opened under the name Photoville.
As Barzilay recalls, “It was the hottest summer since the sixties, and we had this show in the middle of nowhere. Of course it poured torrentially opening night, but still a lot of people came out.”
By year-two, the show had nearly doubled its attendance.
As it has grown, Photoville organizers have focused on improving every aspect of the show, refining what it has to offer and expanding its outreach to the community. The show now offers 35 talks and workshops, with new workshops on portraiture, sports and DSLR video-photography, and walking tours provided throughout the day. All talks and workshops are free and open to the public.
Returning events include Education Day, a day for schools to bring their students to attend the show, with an additional afterschool session this year, and Luminance, an entire day dedicated to professional development for aspiring photographers.
Also returning for another year is the Beer Garden, a space for vendors and for spectators to enjoy the park.
“Beer Garden is a requisite of the event,” Barzilay said.
As there are no photographs in the Beer Garden, “it’s crucial to give audiences breathing room, a place to just sit, relax and reflect without any visual stimulation.”
The Beer Garden is certainly the place to do it. In partnership with Brooklyn Brewery and Smorgasburg, it features more than 100 vendors and picnic tables along the waterfront.
Apart from being free, Barzilay stressed that the show attracts such a wide audience because there’s something for everyone, with shows focusing on fine art, sports, fashion and current events, including a show curated by NYC Municipal Archives that displays crime scene photography.
Rooted in NYC, Photoville has a certain commitment to represent the city, and it doesn’t shy away. With multiple shows curated by five New York universities, exhibitions by the New York Times, the New York Film Academy, and nighttime event The Battle of the Boroughs– a tongue in cheek title, given that there are no winners or prizes, Photoville has become a unique way to highlight the talent of New York photographers hailing from all five boroughs.
“A lot of it is very socially conscious work– sometimes we have some really beautiful bodies of work that people just like to look at, because their just beautiful and powerful,” said Laura Roumanos, executive producer for Photoville. “But it’s about stories. And that, I think is what really links everybody together. That’s why we’re successful.”
The site in itself will be a spectacle, with 80 shipping containers positioned throughout the park– some double stacked and connected by walkways and staircases, offering a unique view of both the work and of the actual park.
“It’s like magic watching it all come together,” Barzilay said. “We have 80 partners, 400 artists, we work with the park, with the city, with the DOT, and it seems so overwhelming, but each year it comes together so cohesively.”
Photoville opens this Wednesday at 4:00pm – 9:00pm and will run until Sunday, September 25, 4:00pm – 9:00pm. To see a list of some of the photographers and their themed work, go here.