Deep Park is an ongoing series of chance portraits by Bruce Polin, a native of Brooklyn, New York. Bruce meets and photographs people in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which he calls his outdoor studio, with his large-format 8×10 film camera. The results are pure, honest, and timeless portraits of a diverse group of New Yorkers who are the protagonists in what we call The New Yorker Life.
Photography is perfectly suited to depict, and enable, the transformative nature of people.
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While, on the surface, the work may not appear all that political, this series of portraits — of random and seemingly disparate people — has been a very organic and physical reaction to the polarization that has enveloped this country since before the presidential election. It’s no coincidence that my need to leave the insularity of my studio and go out to connect with “strangers” began in earnest during the campaign that let up to November 2016.
Prospect Park is the optimal microcosm of New York’s profound diversity. My use of its natural assets as the backdrop somehow imparts additional political resonance, given that our public lands and environmental protections seem to be eroding by the minute, and climate change denial is now, incredibly, a governing principle. The park, designed in 1867 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert B. Vaux, is a vast organism, fertile, with secret winding paths and infinite textures and sounds. There are many unique ‘neighborhoods’ within it. The park has become my studio in a way — one in which I don’t have much control, an aspect that can be frustrating but often liberating.
My use of these large outdated cameras for this project is very intentional. I wouldn’t be able to achieve the same thing with a small modern camera. With these big cameras, a lot of patience is required on both myself and the sitter. At some point, though, my subject becomes invested in the process, and it becomes more of a collaboration. They see that I’m building something, and I need their help. The process can effectively isolate us as if an invisible room takes form. And it all happens in a public space. I’m fascinated by how we construct very private spaces within public spaces. I look for people who might already be in that space, so I approach with care, trying hard not to break what they built.
I try to be aware of the transition.
Photography is perfectly suited to depict, and enable, the transformative nature of people. –Bruce Polin on “Deep Park”