Rob Stephenson’s work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and museums including The Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Jen Bekman Gallery, and The Museum of the City of New York. He was a Design Trust for Public Space Photo Urbanism fellowship and a darkroom residency at the Camera Club of New York. His book, From Roof to Table, documenting the urban agriculture movement in New York City, was published in 2012. He lives in Brooklyn, NY
There Swept out of the Sea a Song.
Where the subway ends and the sea begins – Rockaway is a community on the periphery, a narrow spit of sand that serves as New York City’s last buffer against the vast Atlantic Ocean.
For over a century, Rockaway’s remoteness made it a thriving summer destination for New Yorkers, from its heyday as “New York’s Playground” in the early 1900’s, to its years as a summer getaway for the city’s middle class. After WWII, the advent of affordable automobiles and air conditioning led to a rapid decline in Rockaway’s fortunes.
The area’s isolation and increasing neglect made it a convenient dumping ground for those displaced by the aggressive urban renewal programs of the 1960s, and soon a seasonal destination was serving a year round population. Entire blocks of bungalows were razed and replaced by housing projects, nursing homes and halfway houses. Rockaway quickly became known more for its high crime rate than its ocean views. In the past few years, Rockaway has been through a revival of sorts but was recently one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Through all these changes Rockaway has remained an essentially wild place. The sea – the sounds, the briny smell, the density of air and quality of light – dominates the landscape. In a city where the last vestiges of wilderness have seemingly been eradicated, nature here still has the upper hand. A subdued, often desolate landscape, Rockaway is a place in limbo, suspended between the city and the sea.
For more work by Rob, please visit his website.