Photography doesn’t usually have the problem that it’s too noisy an art form, but that was exactly the challenge that faced the organizers of Photoville, a new photo festival that will open in Brooklyn, New York, on June 22. One of the major components of the show is an exhibit inside a warren of industrial shipping containers. Forty-two of them, to be exact, laid out in a maze carefully planned with both exploration and safety in mind.
“Getting a container is simple. Getting 42 of them placed in an intricate pattern is complicated. The most complicated thing is they’ll show up, they’ll dump it and they’ll drive away. I’ve learned that their preferred hour of doing that is 4:30 in the morning,” says Sam Barzilay, formerly of the New York Photo Festival, who is one of the three minds behind the festival. “Dumping a container as it grinds off the truck onto cobblestone is about the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.”
But when the festival opens, the containers will be there, full of photos. And that won’t be all: Photoville will also include about 1000 feet of fencing covered with community-centric photography, presentations from organizations like the Magnum Foundation and Photo District News, a number of workshops and even a beer garden and a dog run with a dog photo booth. And it’s all completely free.
Photoville is the product of United Photo Industries, a year-old cooperative comprising Sam Barzilay, Laura Roumanos and Dave Shelley. Barzilay says that the idea behind the event, and United Photo Industries’ other projects, is the realization that New York real estate affects the art scene. Empty storefronts have meant that small pop-up galleries have been relatively accessible during the last few years, but that won’t last forever. “The writing on the wall was sooner or later the economy would pick up again and people will be back in business, opening the stores,” says Barzilay. “Those spaces weren’t going to last.” They wanted to figure out a way to continue to present artwork without the overhead needed for a giant space. And once the shipping-container idea struck, the ideas just kept coming.
The end result is meant to appeal to photographers and civilians alike. “Even though it’s the most easily relatable art medium at this point, because everybody carries a camera, I think a lot of the time people are afraid of photography exhibitions,” says Barzilay. “We’re trying to cater to a full spectrum of people. I want people to come and enjoy it.” That’s why the free and open model is so important to the organization.
Barzilay and Shelley have both worked for the New York Photo Festival in the past, but Photoville is not meant to be competition for the more established festival. New York is big enough and “art-loving enough” to support many festivals, says Barzilay—and, besides, Photoville isn’t even meant to be a festival in a traditional sense of the word. “We’re trying to build a destination, trying to build a place where you go and spend a day listening to lectures and participating in a workshop, probably having a beer, to bring your dog to the dog run,” he says. “It’s a place to spend physical time with the photography, not so much as a passive viewer.”
Photoville will be held in Brooklyn from June 22 through July 1. More information about the event is available here.
See more work from Bruce Gilden, one of Photoville’s featured photographers, here.