One Photographer Visits 56 Brooklyn Neighborhoods
Brooklyn resident David Dyte spent over a year exploring every neighborhood of Brooklyn with his camera at the ready — that's 56 neighborhoods, in his estimation. Along the way he captured images that are both iconic (the Brooklyn Promenade, Nathan's in Coney Island) and personal (a blue glass on Bottle Beach, an abandoned teddy bear in East New York). After raising $10,000 via Kickstarter, Dyte published a 162-page book of his favorite photos, As Seen in Brooklyn, which is available via Blurb.com.
Dyte, who moved to New York from Australia back in 1999, spoke to us about his book.
How did you first get the idea for the book?
I originally wanted to do something to show the family back in Australia my new world. A small album idea gradually grew into a whole book as I got great feedback posting shots to Facebook.
What are some of your favorite photos?
Long exposures of Coney Island rides, blue glass on Bottle Beach and a sleeping angel in Canarsie Cemetery. Also, anything with cats.
What did you look for as you were shooting each neighborhood? Were you aiming for "iconic" photos, or did you want something that captured the neighborhood on a more personal level?
While there are some iconic items you just have to include, for the most part I just walked slowly around and photographed whatever caught my eye. On a given day, that seemed to vary from yard decorations to baseball games to ancient signage to other photographers.
Are there any neighborhoods that you knew nothing about but that you were pleasantly surprised by? Or maybe neighborhoods that dispelled any preconceived notions?
Neighborhoods with pretty bad reputations — Brownsville, Gerritsen Beach — turned out to be much quieter and more friendly than I was led to expect. Along similar lines, East New York and East Flatbush had all kinds of variation, with some hidden gems for the curious eye. Williamsburg turns out to be far more than Hipsterville, too.
Who were some of the most interesting people you met during the project?
To get into Seagate, which is closed to non-residents, I needed to be shown around by a friend's niece's boyfriend. He turned out to be a great host and tour guide, after all the cloak and dagger of getting me in there. And a manager at Luna Park on Coney Island told me off in a friendly way, but eventually let my against-the-rules tripod slide. I very much appreciate that indulgence.
Some Brooklyn neighborhoods have very defined boundaries, but a lot of them have boundaries that are really subjective. How did you go about defining where neighborhoods began and ended? What were some of the more difficult areas to define?
I asked friends who have studied this kind of thing. I asked Google Maps. I read Wikipedia pages. Ultimately, I trusted a gut feel of what felt like a major boundary. Difficult-to-define boundaries are all over the place. Crown Heights and Borough Park are good examples. No two people agree on where they begin and end. There's also considerable disagreement about what constitutes a neighborhood in the first place. East Williamsburg or the northern half of Bushwick? You tell me.
If you had to pick one Brooklyn neighborhood to settle down in for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
If I had my choice, it would be one of the ritzier parts of Flatbush. There are some amazing houses there. But that will forever be beyond my means.
What do your Australian friends and family usually associate with Brooklyn? Or do they not distinguish Brooklyn from New York City as a whole?
I think that was the way when I first moved here in 1999 — people tended to picture New York as a mixture of famous attractions and streets crawling with danger. Too many 1970s movies. Nowadays, Brooklyn has been the subject of so many trend articles, they imagine hipsters and artisanal food trucks.
What do you do for a living? Are you a full-time photographer?
Sadly, no. I work as a statistician in the research department at Nickelodeon, which is a lot of fun in its own way.