William Castellana: Brooklyn & Botanicals

Bus To Borough Park – South Williamsburg Series, William Castellana
Bus To Borough Park – South Williamsburg Series, William Castellana

William Castellana is a Brooklyn-based Italian American photographer whose images are in the collections of over thirty-five museums and universities throughout the United States. Though he has spent most of his twenty-year career doing fine art still-life photography, Castellana recently turned his lens on the neighborhood surrounding his South Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment.

The images in his South Williamsburg series form a social document of a people and a place; namely, a sect of Hasidic Jews known as the Satmars, which was founded by Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum in 1905 in Satu Mare, Romania. After World War II, Teitelbaum settled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to lay the groundwork for a religious ideology that would launch one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world.

Tulip and Vase Shadows – Botanicals Series, William CastellanaTulip and Vase Shadows – Botanicals Series, William Castellana

For this series, Castellana focused on the street life right outside his apartment in the one-half square mile area demarcating the secular and religious communities of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the past 15 years, North Williamsburg has undergone massive gentrification, due in part to large-scale rezoning along Williamsburg’s waterfront, whereas South Williamsburg has seen little gentrification and remains an anachronism where concepts of community and family are strongly felt.

Shooting with a digital camera, Castellana was able to capture in street view the neighborhood in which the Hasidim live. It is by nature a limited view for he could not enter their synagogues or homes, as contact with outsiders is strongly discouraged in order to avoid assimilation.  

The curiosity displayed on both sides of the camera creates a dialogue between subject and photographer that is neither posed nor predetermined; rather, it reflects the raw emotion of everyday feelings. The images captured on camera convey a unique sensibility as to what life is like for members of the Hasidic community in this enclave within a city defined by forces of wealth, commerce, redevelopment and the desire to stand out and be noticed. This is of course what the Hasidim seek to avoid, and as a photographer, Castellana strives to respect their sense of community and its continuity.

Inspired by 20th century documentary photographers, like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Walker Evans, Castellana seeks to capture chance moments others may not see. Moments that when viewed, make us reflect on our own values and sense of humanity.

In the exhibit William Castellana: Brooklyn and Botanicals” the Museo Italo Americano of San Francisco is currently displaying images from two of Castellana’s collections. Thirty-seven black and white images from his South Williamsburg, Brooklyn series will be on display along with twenty-two images from his 2013 Botanicals series. 

Receive More Stories Like This In Your Inbox

Recommended

Frank Hysa, The Hive CIO, is a recent Ph.D. graduate in Management between the University of Maryland and the Polytechnic University of Marche

The Silicon Valley Approach: a Mindset that Keeps Inspiring Italian Startups

It all started in Le Marche region, but the echo produced by The Hive program can now be heard also in California. The Hive Incubator and Accelerator...
Maria Rosa, Enrico, Eleonora, Lorenzo & Elisa Tallone at the Tallone publishing house, Alpignano, Torino, Italy (Photograph by Maurizio Bosio)

Tallone Fine Print Books Visits San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area has been fortunate to host several events highlighting the notable work of Italy’s prestigious publishing house, Tallone...
In San Francisco fellow Italophiles, look forward to a year filled with the charm and culture that represents our native Italy. Photo by holbox

San Francisco’s Italian Consul General Looks Forward to the Year Ahead

The year 2017 has begun con gusto and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Italian community, and fellow Italophiles, look forward to a year filled with the...
Frank Stella. Harran II, 1967; polymer and fluorescent polymer paint on canvas

"Una Stella" at San Francisco’s de Young Museum

“My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there, is there. It really is an object.” ~ Frank Stella When we think of Italians and...

Stanford’s Italian Researcher Honored with Presidential Award

2017 could not start in a better way for Italian scientists in the world. On January 7, three scientists born in Italy and currently working in the...

Weekly in Italian

Recent Issues