The Gowanus Canal Is Disgusting, But These Photos Are Beautiful
New York is not known for its cleanliness or abundant wildlife, and probably least of all for its scenic waterways. The Gowanus Canal, however, is probably the most vile. Since the 1800s, this foul-smelling Brooklyn waterway has been a dumping ground for industrial waste, and today it’s considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. The water was even toxic enough to poison a dolphin back in 2013. Yeah, it’s bad.
But just leave it to a native New Yorker to find beauty and charm in a such a dump. Photographer Steven Hirsch grew up in Brooklyn, but had never been to the canal until 2010. It was, if not love, fascination at first sight—a mixture of bubbling oil and centuries-old toxins created shifting, vividly colorful pictures on the water’s surface. “It was mesmerizing,” Hirsch told the Wall Street Journal. “And when the tide would start to come in and the water would move, it would create a kaleidoscope, an explosion of colors, shapes and designs.”
The images were originally part of his 2014 solo exhibition, “Gowanus: Off the Water’s Surface,” in 2014, but their influence is timeless. Even though we’ve probably poisoned our planet past the point of no return, the ethereality and whimsy of these images prove that every cloud has a silver lining, and every oil bubble has an opalescent gloss.
Photos by Steven Hirsch
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