Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
This time-lapse video details how a French artist installed a massive street portrait of an immigrant pedestrian for the New York Times Magazine.
The world is French artist JR's easel. He often fuses larger-than-life portraiture onto urban landscapes and architecture in cities around the world. This behind-the-scenes time-lapse video shows how his new project for the New York Times Magazine's "Walking New York" issue was installed. The work is a giant portrait of an immigrant New Yorker in motion, pasted onto a traffic island at Broadway and East 23rd Street. Here's what the magazine's editor-in-chief, Jake Silverstein, writes explaining the video:
For this project, we decided we’d photograph recent immigrants and paste their images on the city’s streets, where they and other immigrants are often invisible.
The work features on the cover of the magazine. Here is JR's Instagram of the finished product, and his description of how New Yorkers responded to it:
Last month the New York Times Magazine @nytimes reached out to me to think about a project together… I told them I have been working for a year on Immigration and I would love to continue what I started on Ellis Island in the city. So, we started looking for people who arrived less than a year ago. We chose 15 coming from all over the world. I photographed them walking in the city … all of them completely unknown… living in the shadows of the city and learning English slowly. We pasted Elmar, 20 years old who came from Azerbaijan, on the floor of Flat Iron Plaza in New York City. The image was 150 feet high. People walked on him all day and no one really noticed him… Today he is on the cover of the NYtimes magazine that comes out this Sunday on paper… while everyone else is in the shadow :) ............... @kathyryan1 @jakesilverstein #ChristineWalsh and the massive team who helped making this possible!!! #walkingnewyork
This portrait of Elmar continues JR's artistic exploration of immigration in America, which started with his "Unframed—Ellis Island" project last year. In that one, JR installed ghostly, centuries-old immigrant portraits on the dilapidated walls of the island's hospital. Check out these Instagrams of the Ellis Island installations, which have now been compiled into a book: