The “Brooklyn Buzz” series presents an extended visual exploration of Brooklyn, New York, and its inhabitants viewed through the frame of a bus window. The initial project was conceived, developed, and realized in the summer of 2010 (May-September) as a symbolic, photographic portrait of America in this specific time in history, a time of transition and constant, if not relentless, transformation profoundly related to the post-2007 global economic downturn and its effects on society, politics, and culture. Yet, beneath all of these more abstract terms is the very real and very precise terms of day-to-day life in the late-modern metropolis and its effects on singular human beings.
Each image is caught in passing, a chance arrangement of figures that appear for a moment in front of the camera before the bus moves on. “Brooklyn Buzz” is an original and intimate portrait that aims to capture the soul and powerful energy of Brooklyn, globally considered one of the hot spots of our days, although still largely unexplored and unknown. Shocking in many regards, “Brooklyn Buzz” is not the image of New York in 2010 that most Americans harbor, nor is it the image that New York projects to the world from the PR offices of the mayor or the glamorous Midtown headquarters of major corporate media.
The choice of abandoning overall control of the image, and placing ourselves at the mercy of circumstances, was inspired by Robert Frank’s masterpiece “The Americans” (1955–1956) – widely considered a mirror reflecting 1950s America through European eyes – and by our personal desire to engage an emotionally challenging and visually striking exploration of the human and social landscape of Brooklyn, our adopted city since 2007. Frank’s work, considered disturbing at the time of its publication, has since become a touchstone for the integrity of photo-journalistic reportage, with a major retrospective exhibition of all of the images in the book held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009–2010.
Riding local buses with the intention of capturing the essence of “the real thing” was a very rewarding although tough experience: local buses are crowded with children and elders, with a humanity rarely to be seen on the Manhattan-centric subway cars. It feels like riding a mobile living room where you can experience a special intimacy and sense of sharing; where people talk, fight, laugh, sleep, eat, cry, scream, and listen, all the while observing one another through a filter of bodies. The windows also work as filters, but with the outside world: sometimes as enlarging lenses, amplifying and revealing unpredictable details, while capturing life as it is in that precise moment, in the streets, at the bus stop, through the windows of a local deli – frames framing other frames. Other times they work more as protective barriers, yet facilitating a deeply penetrating view into people’s lives, momentary glimpses of otherwise unknown, hidden, forbidden, or difficult-to-access places, faces or circumstances. Stealing emotions with the camera, capturing an expression on a face, a body in motion, or a simple gesture is the very essence of photography’s timeless and universal function to observe, record, and – without apology – comment. “Brooklyn Buzz” is an ongoing experiment in documenting the current state of socio-economic affairs in America, against all counter claims by selective editing to mask the stresses the Republic is undergoing as it shifts from one condition to another; from boom to bust to – perhaps – another boom. The project visually recreates this complex emotional experience through building an archive of the dispossessed, this “turning tide”, rather than merely describing it. It is the emotional charge of the images that is its means of commenting.
The extended intention of the project is to take it “on the road”, to travel the length and breadth of America by bus and document the general desuetude passing over the outmoded and the disenfranchised places and peoples of early twenty-first century America. The artists (Gaialight and Alessandro Cosmelli) propose to make this crosscountry journey through 2011–2012 in the run up to the presidential elections, producing a further series of images for the larger archival project while also searching for the always-present signs of renaissance amidst squalor.
Pictures of the Year International (POYi), Best Photography Book Award Finalist for the book Brooklyn Buzz, 2013
Series: Brooklyn Buzz
Image rights: Gaia Light, Courtesy of ILEX Gallery, Rome
Brooklyn Buzz, Istanbul Photo Festival, 2014
Brooklyn Buzz, The Half King Photography Series, The Half King, New York, NY, 2013
Brooklyn Buzz, Foiano Fotografia Festival, Galleria Furio del Furia, Foiano della Chiana, Arezzo, Italy, 2012
Brooklyn Buzz, ILEX Gallery, Rome, Italy, 2012
Brooklyn Buzz, Galleria Officine Fotografiche, FotoLeggendo Festival, Rome, Italy, 2012
Brooklyn Buzz, Fotografia Festival Internazionale di Roma, Rome, Italy, 2012
Brooklyn Buzz, Foiano Fotografia Festival, Foiano, Italy, 2011
Brooklyn Buzz, New York Photo Festival, Multimedia Room, Dumbo Arts Center, Brooklyn, New York, 2011
Brooklyn Buzz, photographs by Alessandro Cosmelli and Gaia Light, texts by James Wellford, Marion Durand, Gavin Keeney, Damiani 2012.
Best Photography Book Award Finalist, Pictures of the Year International (POYi), 2013