News Brooklyn Navy Yard / Photography

Brooklyn Navy Yard a Photo Haven for Every Season of Photographer

New York City is a fine place for a photographer, offering eternal photographic fodder for both inspiration and subject matter.  Because of the camera, our city’s rise to urban stardom has been well-documented.  Our people and places come and go, but photographs freeze them in time and excite a special part of our intellect.  That said, it’s not every day that an actual place seems to have frozen in time.  The Brooklyn Navy Yard has been fenced in since the 1820s, and certain sections of the huge campus have not been touched in many years.  When this type of place is spotted, guess who gets excited? Photographers.

Credit: Xenia Diente
Credit: Xenia Diente

Unbelievable camera technology and competition between phone makers seems to have made everybody a photographer.  So in this city of eight million people, where do you find a good place to shoot?  How can you get an edge? Finding a good locale is key!  An ad in Craigslist might say:

WANTED: A place with good natural light.  Not too crowded and not remote or unsafe.  A variety of color, texture, and line.  A thick history, monuments, and exciting architecture preferred. Landsape & seascape a must.  A selection of urban renewal and urban decay is a plus.

[nggallery id=12]

Select submissions from the winter tour. Click images to enlarge and see photo credits.

FOUND: The Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Not only is the Navy Yard an incredible environment for photography, but a place where inspiration runs rampant.  The creative energy of the artists and craftsmen throughout the vast complex is obvious.  Sculptural bike racks welded from old train tracks hide out on street corners, and inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92, photographs and art by tenants adorn the walls.  Innovation is just as apparent in the yard’s sustainable design and architecture.  Solar- and wind-powered streetlights dot the campus, and clever adaptive reuse is everywhere.

To help visitors capture these aspects of the yard for themselves, we offer seasonal photography tours, and each season the tour will be slightly different.  This is the kind of thing artists have been doing for centuries.  Painters like Monet would return to the same subject (like haystacks) during different seasons in order to capture variations of light, shadow, and color.  For similar reasons, photographers often flock to the same subject in order to focus on other things (think Edward Weston with close-ups of peppers).

An accompanying seasonal photo contest also adds a different element to the mix, and the judge adds a new dynamic to each tour.  There is a tremendous amount of artistic talent amongst tenants in the yard, and we’re happy to utilize it.  Besides picking winners, they work with us to suggest variations of each tour.  Each season, a different judge will select three photos from all the submissions, and the winners receive two free tickets on one of our future Brooklyn Navy Yard tours.  After the four seasonal tours, the 12 selected photos will be entered to win either the people’s choice award (voted online) or the judges’ selection (chosen by a panel of professional photographers), and each will receive a private tour of the yard for up to 30 people (For more on the contest and to see a slideshow of all the photo submissions from the last tour, see our last blog post).

For this past tour, we could not have found a better judge than Robert Clark.  His enthusiasm about the tour was apparent from the second we approached him.  This sentiment runs parallel to his appreciation of photography as something useful and accessible to everybody.  Way back in 2005 he published Image America —the first photo book to use only images from a camera phone.  His busy freelance career takes him all over the world, but since moving his studio here about five years ago, you can tell that he has thoroughly enjoyed the cinematic scenery around him (and so have his 34,000 followers on Instagram).

But Clark is not the first modern photographer to expose the visual riches of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  In 2009, architect-turned-photographer John Bartelstone published a book full of crisp black and white film photographs.  Though the basic subject matter from his book remains in today’s Yard, many of the images captured cannot be found today because the yard is constantly evolving.  Attention to balancing lines and space in Bartelstone’s work is clear, and the black and white photos work well for translating his architectural documentary style (his book is available for purchase at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center).

Aesthetically, the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s thick historic infrastructure mingles with today’s current activity.  In one of the tour’s winning photos, Michael Musacchio’s image of the future Green Manufacturing Center mixes Bartelstone’s structural style with Robert Clark’s eye for the iconic.

Credit: Michael Musacchio
Credit: Michael Musacchio. Click to enlarge

“I shot and edited the image using three different exposures,” said Musacchio.  HDR and light tone mapping “really captured all the details in the scene.”  New technology like this wasn’t accessible just a few years ago and is an example of the way that the field of photography is constantly renewing itself.  The above photo was taken with a Canon Rebel XTi armed with a 15-85mm lens.  More of Musaccio’s work can be found here.

The other two photos that Clark chose were by Rocco Cetera.  They reflect an appreciation for texture, but also hold great symbolic sway.  A recurring theme in the yard — a balance between the built and natural environment — is front and center.  Musacchio’s shot had it too, but Rocco’s two winning images scaled down the content (and the depth of field) to focus the viewer.  You can see this attention in a lot of Rocco’s work here.  He used a Nikon D7000.

Credit: Rocco Cetera. Click to enlarge
Credit: Rocco Cetera. Click to enlarge
Credit: Rocco Cetera. Click to enlarge
Credit: Rocco Cetera. Click to enlarge

Turnstile Tours offers the Seasonal Photography Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard four times throughout the year – please visit our tour page for tickets and information.  The tours will be offered Saturdays on April 20, July 20, and October 19, 2013, at 11am. Advance ticket purchases are recommended.  We also offer our Overview Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard most Saturday and Sunday at 2pm during the winter months, and other special themed tours of the yard.  All tours begin at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at Building 92, which offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions on the yard’s history, the Ted & Honey rooftop café, and a host of great special events and programs.

This post was authored by Rich Garr, manager of our Seasonal Photography Tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.