What do New Yorkers do when they aren’t at work? A group of part-time photographers are trying to find out in their own spare time.
“By Day and By Night,” a photo exhibition on display Sept. 26–28 at this year’s Dumbo Arts Festival, shows city residents declaring their dual identities — what they do when they clock in, as well as after they clock out. There is a banker-painter, a student-barista, and many more. One of the show’s founders said the photos are an attempt to illustrate the complex identities held by many New Yorkers, who are defined by more than just their place of employment.
“So much of identity in New York is bound by what job people have,” said Park Sloper Alyssa Gruen, who started the exhibit with several former coworkers. “That’s been the primary label on a resume or an opening question about what you do, but people are so much deeper than that.”
The project got its start when Gruen and a group of colleagues began talking about their various after-hours art interests, and eventually decided to throw an exhibition for nine-to-five working stiffs who pursue art in their spare time. During that show, the gallery had an empty wall, so in order to fill it, Gruen’s pal Karoleen DeCastro photographed people on the street with a sign listing their separate day and night pursuits. That ended up being one of the biggest conversation-pieces of the show, said Gruen, so the artists spun it off into its own project.
DeCastro and another member of the gang found their subjects by approaching strangers on the sidewalks of Williamsburg and neighborhoods in Manhattan. People generally fell into two camps, according to Gruen — those who immediately declared their “night identity” and those who said they don’t do anything.
“It often took a moment or two to pull out what people do by night,” Gruen said. “Some of the best moments were when people had these ‘aha!’ moments, when you could tell in their eyes they had sort of figured out what it is they like to do outside of work.”
The artists are not trying to make a single statement with the exhibit, they said. They want viewers to draw their own meaning from the day-night dichotomy and think about it in the context of their own lives. And at the Dumbo Arts Festival, audiences will have a chance to take part by posting photos of their own day and night identities on social media, some of which will make it on to the project’s website, which will go live shortly before the festival begins.
“By Day and By Night” at the Dumbo Arts Festival (Plymouth Street between Washington and Adams streets in Dumbo, www.dumboartsfestival.com). Sept. 27 noon–9 pm and Sept. 28 at noon–6 pm. Free.