About this project
I’m making a photography book about the Domino Sugar Refinery. This Brooklyn icon was the biggest sugar factory in the world for much of the last 150 years. I was the last photographer given access to this mind-blowing place before its demolition.*
My photographs will be at the core of the book, along with vintage photos from the Library of Congress and the Brooklyn Historical Society. There will be a historical essay that brings to life sugar's role in Brooklyn’s economy and immigrant culture, and in Caribbean slavery and indentured servitude. I’ve also written a personal essay on ruins in contemporary visual culture, and why we're so drawn to them. And there will be stories from former Domino workers I’ve met along the way.
I’m interested in the stories behind the pictures, and also in the visual thrill—their dense, almost overwhelming tangle of lines and textures. Domino offered more detail and more chaos than any other landscape I’ve visited. I’ve accepted the challenge by letting as much into the frame as possible, while still trying to hold together a coherent picture.
The Front Room Gallery (near the Domino site) has offered to mount an exhibition of prints, to coincide with the launch of the book.
Updated July 15: As a thank-you for our incredible success, we're giving downloads of free PC wallpaper to backers at every level. We'll be adding more images over the next few days.
Where the Money Goes
Updated July 2: we’ve zoomed past our first milestone, the $7400 Kickstarter goal! This means we have what we need to design the book, including editing, writing, research, historical images, and graphic design for the cover and content. I’ve completed the photography, which I paid for out-of-pocket.
For our stretch goal of $36,000 we’re working toward the publication costs. Art book publishers expect authors to cover a portion of the printing costs, with cash and pre-sales. If we can raise this money on Kickstarter, we’ll be able to get straight to work on courting publishers, without having to worry about applying for grants.
Funding beyond this will go toward increasing the size and quality of the book, and toward mounting the exhibition.
Some of the rewards include prints. You can choose from the following images. Details in the Rewards section on the right.
These prints are SPECTACULAR in person. Especially on the high quality baryta-coated paper and in the larger sizes. There is more detail than your eye can take in. Apologies in advance if you cut your fingers on the jagged, rusty iron. I'm kidding, but you'll see what I mean...
Meet the Team
I'm working with Stella Kramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photography editor; and Matthew Postal, an architectural historian, professor, and staff member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Matthew wrote the original preservation report on Domino, which played a part in protecting the main refinery building from demolition.
Thank you to everyone at Two Trees for giving us access and making the project possible.
Please Join Us!
With your contribution you can be a vital part of our project. And you can own a copy of the book, or a haunting photographic print of Domino from before its demolition.
Please follow us here and on our Facebook page for updates!
*The facade of the main refinery building, comprising the Filter House, Pan House and Finishing house, will be preserved. The interior will be gutted and replaced with commercial architecture. All 11 other buildings at the site have been demolished.
Risks and challenges
After funding, our biggest challenge will be striking a deal with a publisher. We think this project appeals to enough varied groups of people that publishers will want to bet on it. But the art book world is competitive.
If we can't interest our top-tier choices, like Daylight Books and Kehrer Verlag, we will approach university architectural presses. If we get nowhere with that, we will self-publish. This is our last choice because it's more expensive, and because there's no automatic access to distribution.
But one way or another we'll make sure that a book gets made.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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