Photoville: What to See at New York City’s Largest Photo Exhibit

Photo: Bethany Michaela
Photo: Bethany Michaela

Brooklyn Bridge Park is currently hostinga sprawling photography exhibit, courtesy of Photoville, which calls the 74,000-square-foot display, comprising 65 cargo containers of exhibits along the East River, a fully-fledged photography “village.” While this village lacks things like a mayor and a grocery store, it does boast the work of photographers from across the world, giving guests a taste of work they might not otherwise see.

Since its inception four years ago, Photoville has grown from a fringe showcase into something quite big, gradually increasing its stake on Brooklyn Bridge Park incrementally, snowballing in tandem with the public’s desire for cool art to ogle on sunny afternoons. But the photography-filled village isn’t just about pretty pictures, there’s lots of messages to takeaway here too. There’s shots from Eugene Richards’ Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down, a photo-book that provides a stark look at rural poverty in Arkansas through a black and white lens. There’s also snippets of photographer Jeff Sheng’s project Fearless, which captures intimate portraits of LGBT athletes. Photography like this, along with many of the other works on display, show that Photoville co-founders Sam Barzilay, Laura Roumanos, and Dave Shelley care deeply about rendering humanity in all of its myriad forms.

Photoville is in residence at Brooklyn Bridge Park until September 20th, and we recently talked to the founders, who are all the same people behind DUMBO-based non-profit United Photo Industries, about this year’s event and how Photoville has grown over the years. Barzilay, Roumanos, and Shelley answered all questions as a team below. Information on event hours can be found here.

Child Marriage in Yemen - MM7772

How did the three of you start UPI and how did Photoville come about?
Photoville: Photoville grew out of the success of our 2011 event, Foto-Pods, a five-container exhibition including a camera obscura that was a component of The DUMBO Arts Festival.  Regina Meyer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, loved what we were doing and offered us space the next year in the amazing park on the waterfront in 2012. We could not let this opportunity slip, so we jumped on it and the rest is history.

How do you go about selecting the various photo projects? What specific research do you do to find the right series? It seems like many of them hinge on current events and controversial topics.
We curate the curators. Photoville is a hybrid and a very fluid village, consisting of individual photographers, institutions, agencies, etc. Individual curators also approach us with their ideas. It’s a combination of working with existing partners, seeking out new ones and adding a free submission process for everyone to propose their ideas. On the whole, we look for stories that we want to get out to the public, what is relevant today and also what we look at what is missing right now in New York. Also–we just want to work with good people. Life is too short to work with people who are not. We are lucky to have such a fantastic community.

How has the success and expansion of Photoville struck you? To what do you attribute its rise in popularity?
We are now living in a world where information and images are being thrown at us at every second in every day and we are seeing more online than in the flesh. Photoville is free; we are that rare hybrid where you can come down to the park, grab a beer, walk your dog and see important work from across the globe. We are not only giving a platform for artists, schools, institutions, and organizations but we are bringing great arresting work to the masses who wouldn’t normally go to a gallery or museum where they can experience fantastic work and have the opportunity to connect with artists and discuss the work.

What specific series are some of your favorites? What should people look forward to most about Photoville this year?  Too many to list!  They are all our favorites, hence why they are at Photoville! However we are really proud of our night time programming this year. Just last week we had Getty Images present their Legacy Collection with Jonathan Klein not to mention we produced a super cool night time project with the iconic Music Photographer Janette Beckman who curated over 500 images from over 50 music photographers from the last four decades (we even have an exhibition of the work). This week alone the New York Times, PBS’s documentary series POV, and National Geographic are all hosting special ccreenings and events in our beer garden!

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Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 


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