The Stilled Passage: Photographs of Un-Restored Ellis Island

June 24 - August 29, 2016

Ellis Island’s layered history, one of hope for a fresh start but also of hardship and rejection, is told through countless photographs. Those recently arrived on American shores were photographed for numerous reasons—bureaucratic, sociological, journalistic, activist, and artistic—and the resulting images shaped the public perception of immigrants and immigration for those who already called this country home. Nearly 60 years since its closing, Ellis Island still looms large in the American consciousness, and photographs continue to mediate our experience of the once bustling inspection station on a tiny island in New York Harbor.

Since 2010, Philip J. Calabria has photographed a collection of un-restored buildings on the south side of Ellis Island with deft attention to light, color, and surface. By photographing these ruins of a not-so-distant past, Calabria offers us passage to another era. The absence of people is palpable, though their traces are ever present: a worn-out chair, an empty trunk, a heavily trodden floor. These images, rich in texture and bathed in ethereal light, evoke a liminal state, not unlike the one experienced by the millions who passed through Ellis Island—neither here nor there, with both the past and future beckoning, and the promise and trepidation of a new beginning waiting just beyond our view.

— Gregory J. Harris, Curator

Adapted from an essay originally published as part of the exhibition The Stilled Passage: A Photographic Journey through Ellis Island’s Un-Restored Buildings, September 30, 2012–January 6, 2013, Third Floor Exhibition Gallery, Ellis Island.

We are deeply grateful to former BMAC Education Curator Susan Calabria and the entire Calabria family for their assistance in the production of this exhibit.­

RELATED EVENTS:

June 24, Friday, 5:30 p.m. – Opening Reception
August 28, Sunday, 2 p.m. – Curator Tour with Mara Williams