The Brooklyn Navy Yard, to quote a famous Brooklynite, “[is] large, [it] contain[s] multitudes.” At once a place of furious activity and industry, it still contains quiet, neglected spaces; once the busiest shipyard in the world, it was also home to a hospital where wounded sailors could rest and recuperate; once a hive of maritime activity, today most of its industries are not connected the waterfront.
The winning photos from our Spring Photography Tour of the yard capture these facets of the yard of beautifully. Frankly, I think all the submissions from this tour complement each other beautifully, many of them capturing similar colors and shapes, but in different contexts, and clearly showcasing each photographer’s unique style.
But we had to pick just three, and these were selected by Theresa Fitzgerald, a BLDG 92 visiting artist, and her partner Doug Keljikian. We want to congratulate the winners, of course, but we should also view these not as standalone photos, but as stellar representatives of perhaps the strongest crop of photo submissions we’ve received to date for this tour.
Yali Lewis’ photo captures so many wonderful geometric, industrial features – the lines of ropes, the mounds of gravel, the 45-degree angle of the ship’s stern – alongside two men having a spirited conversation. Weekend visitors get a somewhat distorted view of the yard today, as it is lacking one of its main features: people. More than 7,000 people pass through the yard’s gates every day. The majestic old buildings and quiet streets on a Saturday afternoon could lead one to believe that the yard is limping along as a veritable industrial ghost town, but the reality is very different.
These men are standing aboard the Alice Oldendorff, a regular visitor to the yard. This bulk cargo ship carries loads of gravel from Canada to the pier of New York Sand & Stone, a yard tenant, a couple times a month. Whenever she is in the yard, it provides a great opportunity to not only see the piers and docks at work, but also to get a sense of scale of the yard’s former life – the Oldendorff is roughly identical in length and width to the Brooklyn-built USS Arizona. Just imagine the cozy confines of Wallabout Bay packed with a half-dozen battleships of this size, a regular sight 100 years ago. And, of course, thousands of sailors and workers milling about on their decks, not just a pair.
Todd Ifft’s photo also has a maritime theme. Most of his submissions take a macro view of the yard, zooming in on shapes and details to give the viewer a sense of texture of the yard. In this case, this knotted length of rope is not a worn, disused piece of hemp, but is instead a piece of nylon rope, very much in use today, tied up to a freshly-painted cleat. Many cleats and bollards throughout the yard had recently been painted bright yellow, including this one next to dry dock #1, adding a dab of color to the industrial landscape. Yellow was a common theme for many photographers this spring, as you can see it playing off both the yellow nylon in the rope and the yellow hardhat in the photo above.
And with Lisa Combs’ picture, we turn to the quiet side of the yard – the Naval Hospital. While the industrial landscape appeared bright and vibrant, with fresh paint against a clear blue sky on this April day, the natural world remained subdued, with only a few sprouts of flowers and greenery popping up at the sprawling hospital campus. Unlike the rest of the yard, visitors here are infrequent, as the building shown here has been shuttered for nearly three decades, and it’s been nearly seven since it last saw a patient. But it is a favorite site of tourgoers, who marvel at the majestic marble structure that bears many scars of age and neglect.
Congratulations again to Yali, Todd, and Lisa, and thank you to everyone who joined us for the tour and submitted their photos. As people who spend nearly every day at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, it’s wonderful to see how people view and interpret this place with fresh perspectives, and each one of these photography tours is an eye-opening experience. As usual, the three winners have been awarded two free tickets on any one of our Brooklyn Navy Yard public tours, and they’ll be entered into the end-of-year competition and have their work displayed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92.
If you want to join us for the next photography tour installment, it will be a special evening tour – Saturday, July 26, 5–7pm. We can’t wait to see what the next crop of photographers comes up with amidst the long shadows of the yard!
Turnstile Tours offers the Seasonal Photography Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard four times throughout the year. The third tour of the 2014 season will be Saturday, July 26 at 5pm. Get more information here, and advance ticket purchase is highly recommended. We also offer our Past, Present & Future Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard every Saturday and Sunday 2:30-4:30pm, and other special themed tours of the Yard. All tours are offered in partnership with and begin at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92, which offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions on the yard’s past and present, the Ted & Honey rooftop cafe, and a host of great special events and programs.