Project

Brooklyn Now and Ten Years Ago In Kristy Chatelain’s Project

American photographer Kristy Chatelain captured the way Brooklyn's views have changed over the last ten years in a "before-after" format.

The history of this New York district goes back to the middle of the 17th century, when American Indians ceded the territory to the Dutch West India Company to set up six parishes, one of which was Brooklyn. After the final English conquest of New Netherland in 1664, Brooklyn became part of the Province of New York, and in 1898 — part of New York itself. Now Brooklyn is the most populated borough of New York with a total of over 2.6 million people living there.

Kristy Chatelain Age 36

Originating from New Orleans, Louisiana, Kristy moved to New York in 2006, where she received a master’s in digital photography from the School of Visual Arts. Gets inspired by National Geographic photographer Ira Block, who she worked for, also Jeff Brouws, and New Orleans documentary photographer Syndey Byrd, who was her mentor in college and later a friend. Favorite book – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

I became aware of the changes in the area in 2006 after a large warehouse fire drew attention to the Greenpoint waterfront and the recent re-zoning in 2005. I did a photo essay on Williamsburg for a local newspaper in late 2006 and learned about the changes there. While at The School of Visual Arts in New York City working on my master in digital photography in 2007-2008, I decided to start photographing Franklin Street in Greenpoint for my thesis. Over the years I branched out to Williamsburg and DUMBO because I loved walking around the area too – you just never know what you will find. One day that will be over and my fear is it will all look really nice, but would have lost the surprises and things I found beautiful in the transitional state. That is what I wanted to preserve.

Most of the change I see are from developers and individual owners changing/buying their buildings to fit the new neighborhood’s residents or to attract wealthier ones.

Brooklyn was affected because it had ample space in old, under-utilized industrial spaces with fantastic views and a proximity to Manhattan. The 2005 re-zoning kicked things into gear. I’m sure the restaurants and arty vibe don’t hurt the marketing either.

I can speak for myself and probably a few friends when I say there are mixed feelings. The changes are great in many ways because they bring services, exciting restaurants and bars and clean up blighted areas. But for many people, the changes go too far and the demand to live in the area increases to where old-time residents, and even people like me who arrived in early 2006 can no longer afford to stay unless you are lucky enough to have a rent stabilized apartment or can afford one of the new luxury condos. We moved to another Brooklyn neighborhood and it is still affordable. Some places have changed more than others, But I figured many would be gone or changed in about 10-15 years or even less, that’s why I keep rephotographing the locations over and over again whenever I can.


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