MASKED NYC: Witness to Our Time by AJ Stetson on view in the East Village



AJ Stetson: Masked NYC, Witness to our Time

With most museums and galleries shuttered for months during the Covid pandemic, artists have been yearning to respond, reach out, and connect. MASKED NYC: Witness to Our Time, photos by AJ Stetson, is a Covid-safe exhibition in response to that call.

From September 9 through October 7, 2020, every day from sunrise to sunset, a selection of more than two dozen four-foot vinyl panels, drawn from a revolving exhibition of 525 photo portraits of masked New Yorkers, will be displayed at six feet apart on the historic cast-iron fence of the Quaker Meeting House on East 15 Street and Rutherford Place.

AJ Stetson, close up of MASKED NYC: Witness to Our Time

The exhibition will open with a socially distanced reception in the Meeting House courtyard, Wednesday, September 9 at 5 p.m., followed by a silent vigil at 6:30 p.m. for Covid victims, their families, and others suffering from racial injustice and economic deprivation.

After recovering from Covid-19 and a solitary 25-day quarantine in his bedroom, AJ Stetson began capturing portraits of his masked housemates and bicycling through the boroughs of New York City, photographing friends and the larger community of masked New Yorkers. In all cases, he asked for permission before photographing each subject and used a telephoto lens to remain socially distanced. And then, on May 25, after the virus had stopped the breath of so many worldwide, the police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to the neck of George Floyd, permanently stopping his breath.

Amidst the pandemic, and our country’s long overdue reckoning with racism, AJ has created these portraits of fellow New Yorkers, often at Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rallies, always with the subject’s or subject’s parent’s permission at a distance of at least six feet.

Work from this exhibit has been selected to be part of the 2019/2020 Chelsea International Photography Competition Exhibition as well as

SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR VISITORS TO THE EXHIBITION: Each Sunday and Monday at 5 p.m. throughout this exhibition, AJ Stetson will be making portraits of masked New Yorkers at the entrance to Stuyvesant Square Park on Rutherford Place and East 16th Street. The photographer will email a JPG of each portrait to the subject.

All profits realized from this project will be donated to the Know Your Rights Camp COVID-19 Relief Fund, founded by Colin Kaepernick to help address the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on our communities of color.

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