Wheatpasted Photography “One Year Before the Oil Spill”

Photographer Michael M. Koehler Talks About Shrimpers on a Brooklyn Street

The devastation produced by the BP oil disaster continues to affect the animals and people who live on the southern coast of the US and during an overcast day yesterday in Brooklyn a black and white memory of life as it was before the spill appeared on the street. Over top of a pretty battered Shepard Fairey installation from spring of last year a photograph by Michael M Koehler called “One Year Before the Oil Spill” was installed. The piece is from a series he did about life for people impacted by the polluted environment entitled Along Bayou Road.

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

Talking to a passerby, Mr. Koehler explained that after the largest oil spill in US history, citizens who live along the gulf coast are afraid to eat the shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico. In the image he captures the vibrancy of sea life, culture, and commerce with gulls flying over while the nets of “shrimpers” harvest the waters to support their families and the local economy. These days, Mr. Koehler says that stores and restaurants are importing shrimp because nobody wants to buy the local production.

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

The north Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg was once a bustling port town in the 1800s and Koehler chose this spot for his piece because he feels it has a certain kinship with the seafacing communities down south. In fact if you had been on these same streets in say, 1827, you would have seen daily industry related to cargo ships, shipbuilding (the Brooklyn Navy Yard is just next door to the West), sugar refineries, iron works, and brewing. With this wheat pasted series, Koehler draws attention to the plight of a life and industry imperiled.

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” Detail (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

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Michael M Koehler “A Year Before the Oil Spill” (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

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Michael M Koehler. A shrimper portrait from his Along Bayou Road series.  (Photo  © Jaime Rojo)

Now it’s time to put on an old vinyl 45 and listen to Jerry Jackson singing about “Shrimp Boats” and get a 1950s taste of a celebrated part of culture and cuisine.

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