Thinking inside the box: cutting-edge photo exhibit brings shipping containers back to DUMBO

Thinking inside the box: cutting-edge photo exhibit brings shipping containers back to DUMBO
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

To think outside of the box, sometimes you have to get inside of it.

A photography collective in DUMBO is throwing a show in one of Brooklyn’s marquee outdoor spaces housed entirely in shipping containers — an unconventional move taken in part due to the rising costs of art spaces on other prime spots of Brooklyn turf.

“The whole shipping container thing kind of came about because a lot of art spaces now are going; there’s not a lot of freedom to do really kind of interesting and daring work without a lot of restrictions,” said Laura Roumanos, a producer with United Photo Industries and a co-founder of Photoville, which will pop up on DUMBO’s waterfront between June 22 to July 1. “We didn’t really know how popular it would be and how much everyone would love it.”

The festival features photos from more than 30 photographers, from Brooklyn-based Russell Frederick’s preservation-minded shots of Bedford-Stuyvesant, to the images captured by war photographers such as Lynsey Addario, Tyler Hicks and Joao Silva in Afghanistan and Iraq, to a collection of slice-of-life images taken behind prison walls.

But even with such significant names from the photography world on the roster of participants, some of the most important contributors to the show have been the public itself, who gave more than $30,000 to the project after its organizers set up a page on the website Kickstarter when some pledged donations from sponsors fell through.

“That some of our original funding didn’t come through sort of reflects what is happening throughout the world right now, but we were set on not canceling this,” said Roumanos. “We were extremely humbled by everyone that contributed.”

In a way, the crowd-sourced nature of the project’s financing — roughly 20 percent of which came from the 252 people who donated on Kickstarter — reflects the egalitarian spirit of the festival itself.

The show will include an exhibit made up entirely of community-sourced photographs taken by people riding the East River ferry, as well as “The Fence,” a collection of 240 photographs solicited from photographers around New York that will be blown-up and printed on weather-proof material to form a wall of pictures that will span from Pier 1 to Pier 3 through August.

“A lot of times people feel that going to an art festival is exclusive but we wanted to make it inclusive,” said Roumanos. “If you go to a museum or a gallery, every exhibit has half a wall or one whole room, but everyone here has a whole shipping container.”

Artists agreed, saying it was important to them to showcase their work outside the controlled world of the art gallery.

“Galleries only attract the intellectuals and people already in the know, but these shipping containers in the park going to introduce a whole new audience to something they would probably never go see,” said Russell Frederick, a Brooklyn-based photographer whose striking images of Bedford-Stuyvesant will be on display at the event. “Plus it’s something fresh and innovative. That’s Brooklyn!”

Photoville at the Pier 3 Uplands of Brooklyn Bridge Park [Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway at Joralemon Street in DUMBO. Contact United Photo Industries at (718) 215–9075. www.photovillenyc.org] June 22–25, and June 28–July 1, various times. Free.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

Freight and frames: Photoville, a photo exhibit housed in 30 shipping containers in DUMBO and funded with a significant portion of donations from Kickstarter, showcases the changing nature of art festivals.
Photo by Sam Barzilay