As springtime eases into our consciousness, photographers around New York City emerge from hibernation and dust off their lenses, and photos of brightness arising from drab cityscapes begin to fill the memory cards of phones and cameras (and for some still, actual film). But what can photographers do to breathe new life into typical process or themes? Thomas Witte, the featured photographer for the next Seasonal Photography Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, points us in interesting directions.
Thomas Witte has been a tenant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard since 2006, one of a large community of artists, craftspeople, and designers who call the yard home. Currently, Witte is using the medium of photography as a basis for his latest and most popular artwork yet – these “Paper Cuts” are inspired by street art from places like Argentina, some rather un-idyllic landscapes of Brooklyn, and family photographs. In the past, he has incorporated historical photographs from the yard into his work, stenciling them onto windows recovered from buildings in the yard, including the hulking Building 128, a former machine shop that is currently undergoing a massive renovation to become the Green Manufacturing Center.
While the focus of this tour is to give participants the opportunity to explore and photograph the space, as we travel by bus to different stops in the 300-acre Navy Yard, we’ll discuss the past and present of the 212-year-old yard, and display historical photos. As we pass Witte’s studio building, we’ll share stories about his connection to the historic industrial space around him. And who knows – maybe Witte’s unique art process will inspire post-production creativity amongst tour-goers?
Although most attendees on this tour are most interested in snapping a perfect photo of the varied industrial and natural landscapes of the yard, this season we’re reminding everybody that the possibilities of sculpting, cutting, painting, or otherwise editing photographs are endless. Photos taken on the tour are eligible to entered in the seasonal photography contest – following the April 20th tour, Thomas Witte will select his three favorite photos, and the chosen photographers will each receive two free tickets on a Turnstile Tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard of their choice, as well as a prominent spot on an upcoming blog post and exposure on social media. These three photos will also be entered in our year end contest, where the grand prize is a private tour of the yard for up to 30 people.
Instagram happens to be our social media of choice for the photo contest, and it meshes well with this season’s loose springtime theme of “revitalization,” as it allows for fun and easy editing once the photos are on a smartphone. And if you don’t have a smartphone (or Instagram account), don’t fret — we’ll gladly take photo submissions of any format and share them with Thomas (more detailed instructions will be provided on the tour).
Like all photo tours, each one is unique. Not only does weather and season define the experience, but the yard is always changing. That said, we’re sure to see beautiful foliage emerging from industrial detritus, fascinating adaptive reuse of the built landscape, and signs of the relentless persistence of humans and nature. We also plan on making a stop at the future site of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s Naval Cemetery Memorial Park, a beautiful meadow at the Naval Hospital Campus that will be transformed into a publicly-accessible park in the coming years.
Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or cell phone snapper, we hope you’ll join us!
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 every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm, 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.