January 31, 2009 -
For many years, the San Francisco Naval Shipyard has been a source of inspiration for my photographs of New York's industrial edges. As mentioned in an interview with the NY Times, I "grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, within view of the Navy Yard." The view from my back porch was of the iconic crane in the shipyard, pictured above. This was once the world's largest crane, though for many years, I considered it just another mysterious part of the city's skyline.
In 2006, I began photographing inside the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, documenting the changes it is undergoing. At the same time, I also began documenting the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is undergoing a very similar transformation. Both are former Navy properties that played a large role in World War II. Both have subsequently been sold to their respective cities, and have become a home to both artists and industry. Both are still full of abandoned and unused historic spaces, and are currently undergoing huge redevelopments.
In 2008 San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal G, allowing the San Francisco Naval Shipyard to be redeveloped by the Lennar Corporation. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the project will "remake the combined 720 acres with homes, retail shops and a green office park ringed by 300 acres of parkland - and possibly build a new stadium for the 49ers..." In the meantime, these photographs document some of the historic spaces that still remain in the shipyard.
In January, 2009, the UnionDocs Gallery curated an exhibit of my photographs titled Abandoned Brooklyn. The photos explored the industrial neighborhoods of Brooklyn, visiting an abandoned airport, deserted train stations and empty powerhouses, and documented a transitional moment in Brooklyn’s history, as it moves from its industrial past towards a future that seems to be dominated by luxury apartment buildings and chain stores.
The opening of Abandoned Brooklyn kicked off a new season of the UnionDocs Documentary Bodega screening series. As part of the opening night, there was a screening of my film Covered Tracks - a short documentary about an abandoned homeless city underneath Manhattan. Also screening was a short documentary about my photographs, directed by Joe Pacheco for the series Caught in the Act: Art in Brooklyn.
Abandoned Brooklyn was featured in a slideshow and interview on Gothamist, which described the work as "accessing areas that normal folks don't usually see." The Greenpoint Gazette agreed, saying the "works intrigue not only for their aesthetic beauty—the beauty of ruin, of decay, of the sad passing of time—but because like the photographs of Jacob Riis, they show us a world we would otherwise never see, a world left behind by the quick waves of gentrification." Brooklyn author Richard Grayson wrote in particular about "a gorgeous photo of an abandoned hangar from Floyd Bennett Field" that evoked memories his childhood, when the airfield was still in use.