Alessandro Cosmelli & Gaia Light: Brooklyn Buzz
These photographs were taken through the window of an MTA bus, making its rounds in one of New York City’s more expansive boroughs. Attracted by the prospects of confronting the complexity of the United States, which was about to be reshaped by a historic election, we had moved to Brooklyn from Italy in 2007, on the eve of a dramatic and traumatic transition in American political culture. Living in Brooklyn, feeling its special energy, and experiencing its complexity was an ideal way for us to try to better understand America in this unique time. Not owning a car, nor wanting one, we quickly discovered that the bus was a perfect way to get around and to see what was going on in the streets. The bus carries a special quality of truth, which makes each ride an intimate experience, different from what is experienced on trains or the subway. We were intrigued by the diversity, the vibrant atmospheres, the roughness, and the bittersweetness of what we witnessed.
This became the story we wanted to tell. The images in this photographic series, which we call “Brooklyn Buzz,” were inspired, in part, by Robert Frank’s famous and influential 1958 photographic project “From the Bus, New York.” Born of a passion for riding buses in our adopted city, these photographs are a result of the time-honored tradition of photographers taking the pulse of things through full immersion.
Contrary to the international and national stereotype of Brooklyn as a place for artists and hipsters, a myth perpetrated on behalf of God knows who, we found instead a vibrant, real, yet brooding mix of people and places, an ethnographic tapestry of races, cultures, and subcultures, all captured through the magical glass of the bus window combined with the lens of the camera – a reflective and reflexive documentation of what people often prefer not to see.
The chance arrangements and amplification of this world viewed through the filter of a bus window was, for us, a case of poetic catharsis achieved through simply capturing for a moment the larger forces that shape this extraordinarily human place. Rather than an indictment of urban decay and economic apartheid in America, we prefer to think of these images as a potent meditation on the state of things on the cusp of what we hope is a renewal of the American Dream for all who partake of its a-historical merit. Taken during the summer of 2010, the photographs are, we think, not merely a documentation of facts on the ground but also a vision. The tone of these images, though often forbidding, is of hope – or of Renaissance.
Alessandro Cosmelli & Gaia Light
Brooklyn Buzz was selected by POYi 2013 as one of the Best Photography Books published in 2012.
Alessandro Cosmelli is a New York City based documentary photographer born in Italy in 1972. After graduating from the University of Pisa, between 1997 and 2002 he traveled extensively in South America, West Africa, Middle East and Asia, developing an interest in social and political issues. Since 2003 his images have appeared on leading international newspapers and magazines including Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, La Repubblica, El Pais Semanal, Stern, L'Espresso, .His work has been exhibited in international shows and festivals such as Noorderlicht Photofestival, Les Rencontres d'Arles, Museum Of Contemporary Art Rome MACRO, New York Photo Festival, and have received awards from the Pictures Of The Year International (POYi), Photo España Ojodepez Award Human Values, Prix de la Photographie Paris (PX3).
Gaia Light, was born in Rome, Italy.
She has been engaged exclusively in artistic activities since 2004.
Her educational experience is rich and original: on the one hand, classical studies and a Degree in Law (La Sapienza University of Rome) with a challenging thesis on the conditions of prisons in Italy; on the other, an artistic aptitude that revealed itself precociously.
Her current work, presented mainly through photography-based series, focuses on contemporary society, questioning its relationship with technology, media, beauty, body image, religion, youth culture, gender identity and sexuality. A conceptually and critically based approach to the image as cultural artifact, this work utilizes photography, video, installation, and performance.
She lives and works in New York
Photographs by Alessandro Cosmelli and Gaia Light
Texts by James Wellford, Marion Durand and Gavin Keeney