From Za'atari by NOOR. Photo by Stanley Greene
From We Live in Brooklyn Baby.Photo by Nema Etebar
Liberian Fighter.From Testament. Photo by Chris Hondrus/Getty Images
From Head On Photo Festival. Photo by Nicole Welles
From Broken Screen. Photo by Gaia Squarci
From Fearless Genius- The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000.
Photo by Doug Menuez
United Photo Industries is a labor of love: love for the photograph and its ability to convey a complex array of emotions and ideas in a single, silent frame. Founders Sam Barzilay, Dave Shelley, and Laura Roumanos had been working in Dumbo, Brooklyn, together and independently on a wide array of photography, production, theater, and concert productions before joining forces to create UPI in March 2011. UPI opened its gallery doors at 111 Front Street in November of that same year.
In June 2012, UPI introduced Photoville, a free community event conceived as a village for photo-documentary work located on the Brooklyn waterfront with stellar views of the downtown Manhattan skyline. The resounding success of Photoville has resulted in a continuous expansion that makes the festival one of the world premier exhibitions of photo-documentary work.
The exhibitions are housed inside (and out) of repurposed shipping containers, creating a distinctive experience that re-imagines the way in which we view photography in the new millennium. The Do-It-Yourself nature of Photoville allows each exhibitor to transform what is an overlooked industrial space into a gallery of their own design.
For years, Barzilay and the team had been vibing on the idea of repurposing containers for exhibition use, as he was inspired by the majestic East River that flows but two blocks away from the gallery itself. Serendipity being what it is, Barzilay met with Regina Meyer, the president of Brooklyn Bridge Park during the Dumbo Arts Festival the previous year, and they decided to partner to create Photoville in the landmark park.
This year, Photoville returns to Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and runs from September 18-28. The 2014 edition includes more than 50 photography exhibitions and outdoor installations in partnership with organizations including Instagram, Magnum Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Getty Images, Parsons New School for Design, the School of Visual Arts, the International Center of Photography, The New York Times, the Pulitzer Center, and Time, among many others.
As Barzilay observes, “The programming covers a wide array of emotions, from the happy to the depressing. We have to be careful of it being so depressing, because the exhibitions are heavily focused on social issues. It is important to strike a balance between the stories that are being shown.
“For example, Chris Bartlett is showing portraits of innocent people who were arrested, tortured at Abu Ghraib, and released without charges in the first years of the war. These are portraits of perfectly normal people, restoring to them their dignity. The exhibition is called ‘Iraqi Detainees: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Ordeals’ and it will be installed in a setting of barbed wire and clipboards.
“Another exhibition is by Saul Robbins titled, ‘How Can I Help? An Artful Dialogue’, which recreates the therapeutic experience and includes a fake therapy chair. The installation will be set up so that viewers can schedule a free 15-minute session with the artist during which they may discuss any topic in complete confidence. The container will also feature an installation of photographs of other therapy offices.
“One of the most interesting projects, which we are bringing back from Photoville 2012, is Abby Robinson’s ‘Body Imaging’ project. Viewers are asked to identify the body part they are most sensitive about, and then a photograph of that part is taken and put on a lanyard that the viewer is to wear around their neck. People find themselves sitting around talking, being open, wearing the part around their neck as a sign of pride, and talking about these things with each other. People are sometimes missing human conversation, and this returns them to it.
“The New York Times will be exhibiting the work of Josh Hainer, titled ‘Beyond the Finish Line’ which was won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. The photographs are portraits of Jeff Bauman, the Boston runner who lost his legs in the bombing. They show how he learned to walk and run again, It’s a story of redemption. It begins so depressing and horrible, but by the end, you just feel, ‘Wow!’”
Not to be outdone by the exhibitions are the slide shows that will run during the evenings in a series called “Narratively After Dark” held at the Photoville Beer Garden on the premises. Brooklyn’s own Jamel Shabazz will grace the opening night screening with a forty-minute slide show of photographs of his native borough by a wide array of artists, accompanied by a live DJ mixing tracks that are the soundtrack to Brooklyn life.
In many ways, this is because Photoville is a tribute to Brooklyn, home to its own way of living, of integrating art into the landscape. Dumbo is a place ever-changing, as the river rolls by. Once upon a time, this is where they brought the bodies. Then the artists came. Though many of those artists have moved away, yet some remain, the old guard while the new move into gallery spaces that dot these few square blocks. It is always changing, bring new people in to see the sights that they could find nowhere else. That’s why United Photo Industries is here, showing art you’ve never seen anywhere else. The spirit of Brooklyn stays alive on its shores.
From New Photographers, Photo Festival Leiden. Photo by Marijke Groeneveld
From People of the Horse. Photo by Erika Larsen
From The Geography of Youth. Photo by Restless Collective