Eight undergraduates from Montclair State University participated in a workshop at the National Park Service (NPS) site at Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area New York/New Jersey.
The three-week intensive course, taught by Department of Art and Design Photography Professor Klaus Schnitzer, gave students access to off-limit sites at Sandy Hook where they documented damage, changes and environmental degradation caused by 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
As part of their documentation work, students provided over 1,000 images to the NPS, expanding the organization’s records and imagery of the historic peninsula. Students also created artistic work drawn from their experiences, which proved tobe moving and inspiring.
Sandra Mueller, a rising senior and Art Education major concentrating in photography, was struck by her experience studying Sandy Hook. "Documenting Sandy Hook in its post-Superstorm Sandy state is important for future studies of the park. Seeing the damage and ongoing repairs almost four years after the devastation was very sobering. Especially seeing some of the building interiors that are not readily open to he public and being told what the buildings looked like pre-storm," explained Mueller, whose project focused on post-apocalyptic architecture and captured images from items such as old batteries and abandoned buildings to illustrate the theme of her work.
"As a small group, my class was able to produce a great deal of unique, beautiful and compelling images that were of course the result of the damages caused by Superstorm Sandy and the environmental degradation that followed," said Catherine Delaney, a fourth-year Art Education student with a concentration in Photography. "Working at Sandy Hook was extremely informative, challenging and exciting. I was also able to gain more knowledge about the old army base and receive interesting facts about the plant life that encompasses Sandy Hook for background to my personal project."
Delaney’s personal project, "Nature’s Persistence," centered around the perpetual aspect of nature and demonstrated that through her images of plant life crawling up the sides of the buildings, while others were single plants breaking through concrete, brick and wood. "What I tried to accomplish in my project was to show not only the beauty of nature, but also the tenacity that it possesses and how easily traces of human civilization can vanish through the acts of other living things around us."
The 1665-acre barrier peninsula within view of the Manhattan skyline was also a former U.S. Army base, weapons testing site and, until 1974, the location of the Nike missile base NY-56. Sandy Hook is also the location of the oldest working lighthouse in the U.S., which was first lit on June 11, 1764.
Despite numerous deteriorating fortifications ravaged by time and the environment, Sandy Hook remains an idyllic stretch of beaches, considered some the finest on the East Coast, and includes over seven miles of bike paths.
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