The big picture: Giant photo event takes over Dumbo

Reflecting on the past: DeSiano’s “Absent Monument” obelisks will depict the hidden history of the Brooklyn Waterfront.
Rose DeSiano

It’s a monumental event!

A sprawling annual photo festival will descend on Dumbo starting on Sept. 12, setting up more than 85 photo exhibits in a plaza beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photoville, now in its eighth year, will showcase the work of more than 600 photographers, with their work displayed inside shipping containers moved in for the occasion, on free-standing cubes, inside nearby theater St. Ann’s Warehouse, and — in one case — on a series of shining, nearly invisible obelisks just outside the festival space.

“Absent Monuments,” which will set up in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the north side of the Bridge, will feature four mirrored sculptures that pay tribute to Brooklyn’s waterfront history while literally reflecting its present. Each marks a historic event that has been largely forgotten, said the artist behind the project.

“I started to realize all these hidden stories under the landscape,” said Rose DeSiano.

She began the project after becoming fascinated by the historic architecture of Randall’s island. An abandoned mental health facility and an old sporting ground on the island made her think about the city’s past, and she erected some historical monuments there three years ago.

For her Photoville exhibit, DeSiano researched and built four new obelisks, each dedicated to an obscure piece of Brooklyn’s waterfront history. One monument will commemorate the women who worked in flag-making factories in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the 1930s and ’40s, while another will honor the borough’s Native American roots.

Each roughly 10-foot high obelisk stands atop a plinth that is covered with blue-and-white tiles printed with historic and original images, including photos of tribal leaders, and archival images. The obelisks themselves are made of mirrors, designed to reflect the viewer and the landscape around them.

For DeSiano, one of the most exciting aspects of the exhibit has been the chance to return to her native borough.

“I’m excited to have it in this location because it’s an area I’ve thought a lot about,” said DeSiano, who was born and raised in Midwood. “It’s a very rich area of Brooklyn.”

Photoville at Brooklyn Bridge Plaza (17-31 Water St. between New Dock and Old Fulton streets in Dumbo. www.photoville.nyc). Open Sept. 12–22, Thu–Fri, 4–10 p.m.; Sat–Sun, noon–10 p.m. Free.

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306. Follow her on Twitter @rose_n_adams
Monumental: Four new sculptures from Rose DeSiano’s “Absent Monuments” project, which combines mirrors with old photographs of New York City, will be on display at the eighth annual Photoville festival in Dumbo, opening on Sept. 12.
Rose DeSiano

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