The big picture: Giant mural of New Yorkers debuts at Brooklyn Museum

Urban creatures: “The Chronicles of New York City” features photographs and intimate audio interviews with more than 1,200 New Yorkers, digitally put together into a giant mural.
JR

He’s really put the focus on Brooklyn!

An enormous new interactive photo installation documents the joy and beauty of everyday life in the Big Apple. The exhibit “JR: Chronicles,” which opened on Oct. 4 for an eight-month stint at the Brooklyn Museum, features a two-story high mural of 1,200 New York residents, all shot last summer by renowned French photographer known as JR, said the show’s curator.

“He traveled around the five boroughs and shot people up close, allowing them to pose however they wanted,” said Drew Sawyer. “Then people told him a little bit about themselves — some very personal anecdotes, or about life in New York City more broadly. There’s an app that you can download to listen to all of these recordings.”

In the summer of 2018, JR set up his mobile photo studio in various neighborhoods around the city, recruiting passers-by and photographing them in front of a greenscreen, in whatever pose they wanted. The poses and their stories were an effort to paint a complete story of city-dwelling life, according to Sawyer.

“Some people posed as if they were working, some are walking or running, some people eating,” said Sawyer. “And the subjects are from everywhere. Within Brooklyn, he went to Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Coney Island, Downtown, Williamsburg — and really tried to capture a wide range of residents to help tell the larger picture of the city.”

The result of JR’s months-long photo-journalistic effort is the 21-foot-high, 32-foot wide wide massive mural, “The Chronicles of New York City,” with the subjects digitally packed together along the city skyline. Visitors can download an app to hear the stories of people featured on the mural, or they can watch a short documentary screening near the mural that depicts the art-making process, said Sawyer.

“ ‘The Making Of’ is a 10-minute documentary film that shows the people who participated, and how the crew went about putting together the extraordinary mural,” he said.

The exhibit also features a chronological timeline of JR’s past work, which has gained recognition for his ground-level depictions of people affected by hot button political issues — including the Israel-Palestine conflict, gang violence in Brazil, and housing issues in Paris. He has displayed his portraits of local residents in place where they live, either with open-air gallery shows, or by posting giant versions of his images on walls nearby, and gave his subjects a voice, said Sawyer.

“Often times, a photographer will travel somewhere where an event is taking place, like a political uprising, or a conflict zone and tells those stories for a foreign audience,” said Sawyer. “JR turns that on its head, and really goes to a place and spends time with the people living there … and gives his subjects an opportunity to counter the mainstream media presentation.”

“JR: Chronicles” at the Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Pkwy. at Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 638–5000, www.brooklynmuseum.org]. On display through May of 2020. Wed–Sun; 11 am–6 pm. $16 suggested admission.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Getting the shot: JR gained renown for capturing people caught up in hot-button global political issues.
JR

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