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Dancers and Historic Ships Featured in Floating Photo Exhibit

By Irene Plagianos | June 7, 2014 9:49am | Updated on June 9, 2014 8:18am
 Large-scale photos of dancers on historic ships are on display in the Steamship Lilac, at Pier 25.
The Hero Project at Pier 25
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TRIBECA — To see this art show, you'll need your sea legs.

Large-scale photographs of dancers jumping, gliding and contorting themselves atop a series of historic ships recently went on display — on a boat docked in Hudson River Park.

The exhibition, called the Hero Project, places 52 photographs on the historic Steamship Lilac, which is docked at Pier 25, at North Moore and West streets.

The ship is now a museum, but it was previously a U.S. Coast Guard vessel build in 1933 to carry supplies to lighthouses. 

“It’s really a duet between the ship and these amazing dancers,” said Jonathan Atkin, the New York-based artist behind the exhibit, who’s also a licensed sea captain, and, for many years, worked as photographer for dance companies including Alvin Ailey and the Philadelphia Dance Company.

“This not only marries my two passions, but it brings attention to what I see as a vibrant maritime history that gets short shrift.”

Atkin, 65, who now mainly photographs aerial views of large, commercial ships for clients, said he named his series of dancers on ships the "Hero Project" because he sees maritime history and dance largely as unsung heroes.

“It’s not new to photograph dancers in unusual places,” said Atkin, whose photography has been featured in National Geographic and The New York Times. “But I think dancers and historic ships are truly underappreciated — and there is something very beautiful and powerful in the way these dancers have captured the history and pathos of these ships in their movements.”

So far, Atkin has shot dancers on five historic ships, three of them in the city, including the Steamship Lilac and one of the South Street Seaport's tall ships, the Peking. Some of the photos in the show are up to 5 feet wide, conveying the scale of the massive ships.

Atkin hopes to continue the photography project on historic vessels.

"I'll stop at some point," he said. "But I think there's still more to be done, photographing the grace and artistry of dancers and the ships."

The Hero Project is on view at the Steamship Lilac, Pier 25 at West and North Moore streets, Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m, through June 30. Touring the exhibit is free.