Wondering what all those huge photos are along the fences at Brooklyn Bridge Park? The Fence is an annual, summer-long photo installation by United Photo Industries that showcases 40 photographers from around the world as they explore important themes through a series of six images intended to tell a story.
This is the fourth year The Fence’s1,250-foot white banners run along the construction fences of Brooklyn Bridge Park, sectioned into the categories nature, streets, play, people, home and creatures. Some of the featured photographers were present on Thursday, giving talks about their work and how the concept for their image series fit into the category at large. They were proud, and perhaps rightly so: the photographers were chosen by a jury comprised of 47 experts from around the world, from Aidan Sullivan, the vice president of Reportage by Getty Images, to Director of the Tokyo Institute of Photography Ihiro Hayami.
The idea for The Fence came from United Photo Industries (UPI), who thought to create a synergistic partner alongside their event Photoville, an annual week-long gathering in September of photographers and companies with talks, workshops and evening events held in repurposed shipping containers. Photoville has become the largest annual photo event in New York City, according to UPI, so they decided to use it as a prize for The Fence. Though 40 photographers appear on the long white banners, only one grand jury prize winner gets their own shipping container for a solo exhibition during Photoville. This year the competition was so tight that the judges decided on a tie between photographers Lynn Johnson and team Edoardo Delille& Gabriele Galimberti. Both will get their own exhibition containers.
Since UPI first installed The Fence in 2012 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it has grown enormously. Creative Director of UPI Sam Barzilay explained that the growth was a snowball effect that seemed to come out of nowhere. “Other parks came to us and asked if they could do what we were doing,” he said, noting that the enthusiasm and lack of need to make pitches and bids allowed UPI to focus even harder on making the event excellent. In 2013 the installation grew to the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston and in 2014 to the Atlanta BeltLine in Atlanta. This year the installation expanded to Houston. Barzilay said he is getting interest from all over the world, so the expansion is likely to continue.
The projects UPI do are often subsidized to help move things along as quickly as possible, and to make them as good as they can be. The Sony sponsored World Photography Organization (WPO) came onboard in 2013 and offered free interviews for the winning photographers, increasing their already large public and industry exposure. Executive Producer of UPI Laura Roumanos noted that help came from the very beginning with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, who let them install in the park with few restrictions, allowing photographers to get as creative as possible as long as it was not blatant violent or sexual material.
UPI describes itself as an art-presenting organization, launching itself in 2011 starting with a fledgling photo gallery in DUMBO. Now UPI expects 3 million visitors to The Fence alone.
The installation stretches from the north end of the park near DUMBO to Joralemon Street and will be up through September.