We began Guided Tour: Prospect Heights in 2001, asking our neighbors in Brooklyn for their personal tours of the neighborhood. These tours led Gabrielle to embark on five years of documenting the neighborhood, and to the creation of a powerful body of photographic and oral history work representing a small, diverse neighborhood at one moment in time.
The project culminated just before everything changed in the neighborhood with the proposal, and eventual building, of the Barclays Center Stadium and the multi-block Atlantic Yards housing complex, built in part using eminent domain. This means that Guided Tour: Prospect Heights captured the neighborhood’s narrative before the behemoth of large-scale development changed its daily life and practices forever.
Guided Tour : Prospect Heights is one of a series of Guided Tour projects — in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Oakland, California, East London, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. These works all focus on individuals’ lived experiences of neighborhoods as a way to understand bigger connections to culture, ethics, and politics. The Guided Tour projects weave the local with the global, the personal with the political, and the embodied with the imagined. Uniting all of these projects is our original three-part arts research methodology to understand a place.
Our method first consists of interviews held while residents take us on a “guided tour” of their neighborhoods — focusing on an embodied experience of place; second, our making of photographs of the places people have led us — considering how creative practice can be an important way of knowing; and finally, a set of follow-up interviews showing people the photographs we’ve made of their of places — in which our conversations use photographs as a way to slow down and still time and together grapple with perception, memory, and representation.
Guided Tour : Prospect Heights has many parts: a large archive of interviews and oral histories and a major body of photographic work. It has resulted in several publications and other projects, including the experimental Guided Tour DVD, an early project thinking about the intersection between digital and physical spaces and the ways to help people understand the unseen layers of their familiar places. Guided Tour : Prospect Heights also took on a new, interactive, public life with our creation of Intersection | Prospect Heights in 2015, using our stories and photographs from the guided tours.
Gabrielle has written extensively about this research. These publications include her PhD dissertation on Brooklyn and Oakland, Guided Tours: The Layered Dynamics of Self, Place and Image in Two American Neighborhoods. Other publications include: “Walking, Emotion, and Dwelling Guided Tours in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn,” Space and Culture (2005) and “Bringing their worlds back: using photographs to spur conversations on everyday place,” Visual Studies (2016).
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