Barren Island History VR documentary

Fascinated by the community that inhabited Barren Island when it was the main dumping ground for New York City’s garbage, I decided to experiment with VR and the Ricoh Theta at Dead Horse Bay, where refuse from the era still washes up on the beach. While many people have heard of Dead Horse Bay, I think it’s still a surprise to learn of the marginalized labor that sorted through garbage there, and these people’s fate when Robert Moses decided to build Marine Park Bridge to connect the island to Brooklyn. It amazes me that this history is overlooked, especially when those that pick through recycling for a living are still visible in New York. And of course, people still make their living this way in dumps around the world.

My main source of information for the audio is from Benjamin Miller’s Fat of the Land, which provides a much more in-depth history of New York City’s garbage. There’s also a great short overview of present-day Dead Horse Bay on Atlas Obscura, which also gives instruction on how to visit.

Video portrait

Tasked with creating a video portrait of a stranger using only still photos, my personal goal was to learn how to take photos with a 5D camera. My focus was on the experience of a protester.

The timing of the assignment coincided with a new wave of Black Lives Matters protests across the country in response to the the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. In both cases, the shootings were caught on video. I attended one of the protests in New York. Experiencing a protest through a camera was a very different, and it was challenging to adjust manual settings in such a rapidly changing atmosphere.

I realized while reviewing the images that many of the photos I’d taken were of people policing or observing the protest, and the general surveillance atmosphere (cars, helicopters, signs). I was documenting while being documented. I recorded the audio after putting the images together based on the almost-verbatim goodbye a friend (much more active in political organizing than I) gave before leaving midway.