The diversity of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, in photos

The diversity of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, in photos
NY state of mind — In Deep Park, photographer Bruce Polin celebrates the characters of New York City’s Prospect Park, exploring how humans create their own private spaces within larger communal ones.

Prospect Park is a 526-acre space, situated in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (following their completion of Manhattan’s Central Park), it opened its gates to the public in 1867.

While it has undergone various modifications over the years, the fundamental features – the secret nooks, hidden paths, areas that each feel like their own distinct neighbourhood – have remained a constant. They’re ultimately what led photographer Bruce Polin to begin a project centred on the park in 2015.

Shooting with large-format film cameras, the New York photographer had initially intended to embark on a studio-based portrait project. However, he soon grew tired of the same four walls and began taking his equipment outside, travelling around Brooklyn with his gear kart (“not an easy task”). While there were no plans to anchor himself to a specific location, he found himself returning to Prospect Park over and over again.

“Parks, in general, are places we go to shed the layers of bullshit we normally have to wear in everyday life,” he explains. “It’s a public space, but it’s also a place where you can be anonymous, be totally yourself. I’m interested in how we create private spaces within larger public spaces. That’s fascinating.”

Four years later, the project exists under the title Deep Park, and has come to take the form of an ongoing series of “chance portraits” taken during Polin’s trips outside of the studio. Though the images may not appear political on the surface, he views the work as a direct response to a divided US: Prospect Park embodies New York City’s diversity – and that is to be celebrated.

“In 2015, the god-awful rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, was beginning to infiltrate all manner of life here, as he demonised groups of people in order to corral a voter base. I found myself leaving the studio, taking my big camera outdoors to connect with strangers, many of whom happen to belong to those demonised groups.”

“I should add that my project didn’t start with this concept. It was really an organic process, and I only realised why I made certain decisions after some time, thinking about the timeline of events. I understood that my leaving the comfort of my studio in the second half of 2015 in order to photograph strangers in public wasn’t merely a coincidence.”

In terms of shooting, the “outmoded equipment” is an important part of Deep Park. Given the nature of the camera Polin uses, the process itself is much lengthier, resulting in a more collaborative experience between photographer and subject. (“They feel invested and see they are helping to create something, to bring something into the world.”) 

It results in a series of images that feel supremely intimate, despite the vast, communal nature of the space in which they were shot. For Polin, it’s about exploring personal moments shared in public spaces – all while paying tribute to his city.

“Prospect Parks draws not only local residents, but also people from the other boroughs – and tourists as well. It’s the perfect microcosm of this city’s diversity. People of all sorts come to the park because they are comfortable there.”

See more of Bruce Polin’s work on Instagram and his official website.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Latest on Huck

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo
Photography

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo

A new book by photographer Feng Li uses images of strange encounters to explore the historical centre of street photography.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore
Culture

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore

A new book dives into the ancient traditions and rituals that many are turning to in an age of uncertainty, crisis and climate breakdown.

Written by: Thomas Andrei

Inside London’s Museum of Sex
Culture

Inside London’s Museum of Sex

For two days only a derelict house in south east London will become a hub of artwork exploring eroticism, sexuality, gender, and the body.

Written by: Brit Dawson

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?
Outdoors

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?

During this summer’s edition of the Euros, one certainty is the ubiquity of Diamond’s 1969 hit. But how and why did it gain such a storied place in England fans’ hearts? Jimmy McIntosh investigates.

Written by: Jimmy McIntosh

Can things only get better, again?
Election 2024

Can things only get better, again?

With the re-emergence of D:Ream’s euphoric 1993 hit and a ’97 style Labour landslide looking likely, Hannah Ewens dives deep into the creation of Cool Britannia, and asks experts whether it could be repeated again.

Written by: Hannah Ewens

The activists fighting the mental health crisis
Election 2024

The activists fighting the mental health crisis

Micha Frazer-Carroll examines the way the mental health crisis has escalated in the last five years and meets those organising to end it.

Written by: Micha Frazer-Carroll

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now