Super innovative, committed to both encouraging photographers and providing community service with lasting impact? Yes!
The Floating Photography Foundation (FFP) – established in 1969-70 in a small purple barge moored at 79th Street Boat Basin – happily took on these challenges and more. The FFP was started by photographer Maggie Sherwood. It was a time when the Upper West Side was still quite run down, and photography as an art form was appreciated only on the fringes of the art world. Working with his son Steven Schoen and daughter-in-law Jone Miller, Sherwood not only opened the houseboat to the public as an exhibition space, but thus created a community of photographers who were able to share ideas and share ideas. encourage each other.
Among them were W. Eugene Smith and Lisette Model. Many of these photographers gathered regularly in the quirky and exuberantly decorated Market Diner on 43rd Street and 11th Avenue. A photo of the photographers at the restaurant – and many other images and descriptions of FFP’s 16-year history – appear in one catalog written by SUNY New Paltz Professor Beth E. Wilson for a 2009 exhibition on the Foundation.
In the same catalog, Schoen described the mission and the guiding concepts of the Foundation. While often accessible to the public at the Boat Dock, the Houseboat Gallery has also traveled to other areas of Manhattan’s shores and north of the city, hosting photo exhibitions and public photography workshops.
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Schoen wrote that they “created the Floating Photography Foundation in 1970 to both promote the discipline as an art and as a therapy. Prison programs were a natural evolution from our early experiences in HeadStart and in open schools, drug-free communities and mental hospitals. Our attitude has always been “Why not give it a try? »… Photography is a magical medium that transcends social, racial and even natural communication barriers; it has always served to bridge human psychic separations.
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Many anecdotes are recalled by those close to the Foundation. Wilson said, for example, that some locals objected to the purple-painted barge, believing it would be a distraction for drivers on the West Side Highway. Sherwood had to appeal to the mayor’s office to overturn the objections. On a more sober note, Miller recalled that by participating in the 1976 bicentennial boat procession down the Hudson River, hammered by Hurricane Belle, the barge sank, “with photographs floating on the Hudson.”
Resuscitated on a barge, the Foundation’s activities continued for another ten years. Towards the end, it was moored in Rondout Creek near Kingston, New York. Sherwood died of cancer in 1986. Schoen and Miller, who have lived in High Falls, NY since the 1980s, have worked in a variety of ways to focus on and keep the remarkable Floating Photography Foundation in the public memory. .