Photos of Brooklyn Before and After the Hipsters
Brooklyn, like Oakland, was a great place to live before the hipsters took over and brought their fixies and crappy beer and artisanal donuts. Think about that for a moment: Artisanal donuts. Now the rents are off the charts, there’s an apothecary on every other block and you can’t escape the sound of Arcade Fire and Tame Impala. Kristy Chatelain takes us back to a time before the hipsters in her series Brooklyn Changing.
Chatelain moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint in 2006 and fell in love with all the Polish mom-and-pop shops that lined its streets. She’s a history geek as well as a photographer, and she loved how the past seemed to permeate every building facade and sidewalk crack. “I’m drawn to the idea that other people have been there and have left something visually interesting behind,” she says. “Back in the day, those streets would have been busy with all kinds of maritime and industrial activity, and now so many of the buildings sit empty and the streets are broken up with glass bottles and trash.”
She knew change was coming, and started documenting her favorite locations in Greenpoint and neighboring Williamsburg to “see how long they would last.” On sunny afternoons, she wandered around with her Canon 5D, looking for doorways and building facades with a unique combination of light, color, and texture—places she knew she’d miss if they disappeared. They often did. Bodegas closed, replaced by third-wave coffee shops. Storefronts that once housed family businesses became bars serving $18 cocktails prepared by mixologists who use artisanal ice. Rents got so expensive that even some of the designer boutiques closed. “Some people blame Girls,” she says of the gentrification. “But who knows?”
Chatelain captured locations again whenever she noticed they had changed. Some were utterly remade within months; others transformed over years. In a few cases, Chatelain couldn’t recognize locations she’d already photographed. She’d been visiting Brooklyn Winery—which offers “gourmet nibbles”—for months before realizing she’d photographed it before the renovation. Her excitement about the neighborhood fell in direct proportion to rents rising.
But overall, she isn’t bitter. “I see it as all part of the cycle of change that is New York City,” she says. “It’s just sad that long time residents might be forced out in the process of gentrification, or basically have to watch their neighborhood become unrecognizable.”
Eventually Chatelain left too. She had a baby and moved to Bay Ridge in 2011, where apartments are spacious and affordable. But she’s still working on the project, wandering her old neighborhood. “I miss the surprise of finding something unexpected and living near an ever-evolving canvas of artistic expression and change,” she says. “I don’t feel that way in Bay Ridge, driving to a newly constructed strip mall. I now never find anything interesting on the streets except for nicely manicured lawns.”
See original article: