Art

Images That Show New York Nonetheless Has It

One summer time afternoon in 2017, Oluwanisola “Sola” Olosunde and her mates snuck right into a constructing close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard so they may loosen up on the rooftop. Then her brother arrived with a message that will change her life endlessly: “I noticed this man promoting junk in Myrtle and he had a film digital camera for eight {dollars}.”

Intrigued, Sola bought on her bike, grabbed a digital camera, and went to the shop to purchase a roll of movie and a few batteries. Lo and behold, the little Instamatic labored, and Sola instantly set out on a journey to doc the ever-changing panorama of town of his beginning. Sola, a first-generation Nigerian-American, grew up within the Clinton Hill part of Brooklyn, lengthy earlier than legions of vacationers started taking selfies outdoors Biggie Smalls’ childhood dwelling.

a man wearing a scarf smokes and looks at the camera

Denzel Smiley in No Negativity (Prospect Park, Brooklyn, 2021)

“Rising up in Brooklyn made me admire the group,” Sola, now 26, tells me. “My constructing had quite a lot of Nigerian immigrants they usually all knew one another. However as time went on, all that modified. Brooklyn was experiencing gentrification, particularly after the development of the Barclays Middle. Once I was 11 years previous, we moved to Far Rockaway in Queens as a result of the actual property market blew up.”

Though she now lives on the southern finish of the A line, Sola has not resigned herself to life within the outer district. Blessed with a penchant for exploration and journey, he stays within the combine together with his digital camera, backpack and bike. Whereas everybody was capturing digitally, Sola went old style, which is completely consistent with his distinctive model of cool. “The explanation I wished a movie digital camera was to take avenue pictures as a result of it actually bothered me after I was driving down a block and it seemed completely completely different than it did two weeks earlier,” he says. “I did not wish to overlook what was there, so I began taking photos to create an archive of what New York seemed like after I was a child.”

    A man standing on red steps in Crown Heights Brooklyn

Self Portrait Through the Rebellion (Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 2020)

As New York natives know, the important thing phrase within the metropolis’s identify is “New.” Situated on the forefront of artwork and business, New York embodies the remark of the Greek thinker Heraclitus: “The one factor that’s fixed is change.” Sola first found this when he was a baby whereas accompanying his father on errands round Manhattan and Queens. “He was speaking about how a lot town has modified since he arrived within the ’80s to the early 2000s and that basically piqued my curiosity,” says Sola. “My dad used to inform me how horrible he was, however he appeared completely wonderful to me. So I began doing Google searches after I was a child in highschool, in search of the issues he was speaking about.”

Sola’s early expeditions into the previous established a lifelong love of black New York historical past whereas heightening her consciousness of the media’s position in chronicling the tales being advised. In 1905, journalist George Helgesen Fitch wrote: “The newspapers are making the draft of historical past morning after morning. Later the historian will come, obtain the previous recordsdata and remodel the crude however honest and correct annals of the editors and reporters into historical past, into literature. However what concerning the tales that go unreported, those which can be ignored or ignored by these historians? Sola observed a startling discrepancy between the world he inhabited and the New York seen within the media. “When he was youthful, folks he knew had been killed however he would not make the information; it was virtually prefer it by no means occurred,” he says. “I spotted that there are such a lot of issues that folks expertise which can be by no means recorded or broadcast. Whenever you get to native historical past, you begin to uncover these sorts of tales.”

Whereas pursuing his bachelor’s diploma in American Historical past and Worldwide Political Science at Queens School and his grasp’s diploma in City Planning at Hunter School, Sola delved into New York historical past and was impressed with what he discovered. “It actually bothered me that the academy retains all this info and would not attempt to share it with the plenty, despite the fact that they will profit from it. I began sharing what I knew with folks on social networks”, he says concerning the genesis to create a extremely popular collection of New York history tweets.

Utilizing her entry to the CUNY library system and on-line scholarly databases, in addition to the Schomburg Middle for Analysis in Black Tradition, the Web Archive, and the Archive of American Public Broadcasting, Sola started choosing pictures and movies that doc a variety of histories of black New York courting again to the Civil War draft riots from 1863. “I actually like main sources,” says Sola. “It is nice that folks can watch a video from 1976 and take what they need from it as an alternative of me deciphering it.”

Man standing on a rooftop in Williamsburg Brooklyn at night

Solely at Elsewhere Rooftop (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2021)

His work has additionally impressed others to make important connections between the current and the previous. In 2019, Sola shared video footage from 1975 of a racist assault on black youngsters in Rosedale, Queens. The tweet went viral, making a deep impression on those that might have been unaware of town’s brutal historical past of de facto segregation. After collaborating in Sola’s work, reporters from The New York Occasions sought out these youngsters (now of their 50s) and printed their reflections on the rebellion, following the homicide of George Floyd.

Though her Twitter account has been blocked at instances for copyright infringement, Sola stays dedicated to empowering folks with data, knowledge, and understanding. Whether or not highlighting the harrowing impression of “benign neglect“, the heroin, fissure Y AIDS epidemics, police brutality or elevating group initiatives similar to Banana-Kelly Community Improvement Associationsummer time traditions like Party in the street and the West Indian Day Paradeand attention-grabbing conversations with Harlem youth in 1964, Sola’s collection of tweets has turn into an intergenerational thread of tales woven by way of town’s wealthy African diaspora. “It’s a privilege to develop up in New York as a result of we’ve got such a world black inhabitants,” says Sola concerning the richness of town’s neighborhoods, dwelling to Africans, West Indians and Afro-People who’ve solid political, social, cultural and liberation. actions which have formed world historical past for greater than a century.

Man smoking in front of an orange sunset

Lon in Stunning Faces No. 1 (Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2022)

“All through historical past we have had a way of group and camaraderie with different black folks,” he says. “Even when they’re older, you continue to perceive their expertise. You’ll be able to acknowledge the scent of roast hen, seeing older ladies on Sundays of their huge hats and clothes going to church, and folks placing procuring luggage on their heads to maintain their hair moist: these are issues we will all relate to. as a result of we grew up in the identical place. Once I’m taking pictures, I all the time take into consideration how that is one thing anybody can relate to, particularly should you’re from New York since you’ve seen it earlier than.”

Whereas Sola possesses a deep love and respect for historical past, he is not caught up within the nostalgia-tinged gloss of the previous. Recognizing that the time is now, he takes his rightful place amongst New Yorkers remaking town in his personal picture. Because the host of the Stunning Faces get together, which celebrates its first anniversary on August 6 on the Knockdown Middle, Sola paperwork a brand new technology of younger people who find themselves coming collectively immediately. What began as a small rooftop get together has grown organically over the previous yr to attract greater than 1,000 folks to occasions in Bushwick, East Williamsburg, and downtown Brooklyn.

women in disguise at a street party

Ladies on Tompkins Ave (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 2022)

On the identical time, Sola works as a metropolis planner for town authorities. “I am unable to save town on my own, however I wish to discover methods to cease the housing drawback,” she says. Utilizing her analysis abilities, Sola gathers info on new improvement proposals, with the purpose of changing into extra concerned in coverage and serving to make zoning adjustments that will facilitate extra low-income housing.

Devoted to utilizing the teachings of the previous to forge a greater future whereas discovering pleasure and pleasure within the current, Sola is blessed with an innate skill to maintain up with a metropolis that refuses to decelerate. Whereas some battle with the ever-changing nature of New York, Sola understands that the key to success is to switch and form the current to profit the higher good.

The Stunning Faces 1st Anniversary Occasion shall be held on August 6 at Knockdown Middle in Maspeth Queens. Stunning Faces may also be in Los Angeles on July 24 for a celebration at Tenants of the Bushes.

    Partygoers shot from above in Brooklyn

Memorial Day in Stunning Faces (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2022)

Woman in Bushwick wearing sunglasses, white Puñeta t-shirt, carrying the Puerto Rican flag

Tess Cecyl in Right here I Stayed (Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2022)

Skaters in sunny Brooklyn

Curler Ave at 99 Scott (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2022)

A woman wearing sunglasses showing a peace sign to the camera.

Cyn in Bonita Brownstone (Harlem, Manhattan, 2022)

A man in white shorts and a t-shirt standing in front of a bush in Queens

Self Portrait on Seashore forty fifth Avenue (Far Rockaway, Queens, 2020)

    Women in metal and sequin tops at a party in Brooklyn

Veronika Collins and Taylor Hawkins on the On a regular basis Ppl Halloween Occasion (East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2021)

    A woman in a straw hat and sunglasses smoking a cigar.

Boss Girl on the Brooklyn Museum (Crown Heights, Brooklyn, 2022)

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All photos courtesy of Oluwanisola ‘Sola’ Olosunde

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