Blockhead! Photographer captures joy of the block party

Blockhead! Photographer captures joy of the block party
Anderson Zaca

He’s been around the block!

A Crown Heights photographer has spent more than 10 years shooting the borough’s block parties, and he will show off his images at the “Block Party” exhibit at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, opening on Dec. 16. The artist began shooting the ubiquitous street festivals in 2005, and says he became serious about the hobby when he realized that no one else was documenting the neighborhood events.

“I started doing research on block parties and I found out that no one in the history of New York ever documented a block party — that history hasn’t been written yet,” said Anderson Zaca. “I’m not going to write about it because I’m not a writer, but I said to myself, ‘Wow this is an untouched thing and I’m going to document this’ and that’s what I did.”

For more than a decade, Zaca spent each weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day snapping photos of block parties across the New York City. He was first drawn to the outdoor gatherings because they reminded him of his childhood in Brazil, when neighbors of many different cultures would come together at street festivals. He wants his exhibit to showcase a similar feeling that occurs among New York neighbors — one that is rarely shown in the mainstream media.

“In designing the exhibit I wanted something that represents the community, how we celebrate New York and how race doesn’t get involved or any kind of prejudice — it’s just one,” said Zaca. “I want to bring the best, to represent the people so the world can see — because if you ever went to a block party, you’re going to see the coolest people in world, where you don’t have to pay for food, and you are welcome as a family.”

Circle of life: Grown-ups join the hula hooping action at the street festival in Crown Heights.
Anderson Zaca

The interactive exhibit will open on Dec. 16 with an event that echoes an actual block party, with a bouncy house on the roof of the museum, a photobooth, and an indoor street scene complete with sidewalk games, a plastic fire hydrant, a grill, and a dee-jay turntable.

Zaca says he hopes children and their families will enjoy the immersive presentation and the joy showcased in the photos.

“I want the kids who have block parties to keep having block parties, and I want the kids who don’t, to start having block parties,” said Zaca. “I want kids to be inspired.”

“Block Party” at Brooklyn Children’s Museum [145 Brooklyn Ave. at St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, (718) 735–4400, www.brooklynkids.org]. Opening party Dec. 16, 10 am–5 pm. $11.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Party animal: Photographer Anderson Zaca designed a 500-image photo mural for his “Block Party” exhibit at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Photo by Erin Lefevre