DUMBO’s annual photo festival Photoville moved up river this past September, adding a beer garden and expanding in size alongside Brooklyn Bridge Park. Installed in shipping crates and blockish lightboxes along the East River, ambitious documentary photo projects about mass incarceration and ebola outbreaks and the refugee crisis come to life. The collection provides a sobering reminder of the immense global challenges we face in 2016, but also, an affirmation of the power of multimedia storytelling.


Women on the Outside
Organized by Magnum Foundation, this striking series of photos shows women whose family members, husbands, friends, and partners are incarcerated in one of two prisons in Pennsylvania. Co-curators Lisa Riordan Seville and Zara Katz paired with the photographer Zora J. Murff and the transportation service Bridging the Gap to capture the experience of visiting a loved one behind bars. Two graphics showing the geographical distance of these bus routes illuminate both the fractured state of the criminal justice system, as well as the immeasurable strength and determination of the women working to hold their families together.


This quiet, contemplative look at family life was anchored together by a massive net of framed photos that hung from the shipping container ceiling. Three plaster molds of the artist’s parents and husband were mounted behind the net, introducing a disturbing element that may signify loss or anguish or detachment, depending on the visitor’s interpretation. In experimental photo collages depicting people in domestic spaces, the photographer Emily Schiffer explores inherited trauma, collective memory, and transgenerational family narratives.


Ebola through the Lens
Displayed in two shipping crates and an open-air lounge decorated with Kente cloth and astroturf, color-saturated photographs show men, women, and children living in Ebola-affected areas in West Africa. Presented by the Open Society Foundation, the project depicts grief-stricken parts of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea where health-workers struggled to keep up with demands; the competition’s first-place winner, Jane Hahn, is based in Dakar, Senegal.


Foreigner: Migration into Europe
On one side of a lit-up cube, a portrait of a young man holding a handful of sand on an empty beach comes into view; on the other side, there are thumbnail photographs of sets of men staring head-on at the photographer’s lens. The photos are part of a book that documents several key migration routes: North Africa to Italy, the Middle East to Greece and then Germany, and a camp in Calais known as the “Jungle.” In a move that pulls away from popular media’s alarmist approach to covering the refugee crisis, the photographer and filmmaker Daniel Castro Garcia worked to capture calmer moments that humanize the refugees and migrants.


Water Stories
Along the East River, Mustafah Abdulaziz’s photos of the global water crisis were aglow in a series of lightboxes staggered to signify discrete geographical regions. From Fengdu, China, to Patna, India, the urgency of the issue is communicated in receding river lines, portraits of people going to extreme distances to retrieve water, and aerial views of landscapes desiccated by water loss.


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