How The NY Times Is Sparking
The VR Journalism Revolution

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By Angela Watercutter

Street artists normally work in the shadows. But on April 11 French artist JR threw up a new stunning piece right in the heart of Manhattan in broad daylight. His handiwork was removed within 24 hours, which means like many of the magical moments that happen in New York City, you probably missed it. But hey, that’s okay—you can relive it in virtual reality.

JR’s piece—a 150-foot-tall black-white-grey image of a 20-year-old Azerbaijani immigrant named Elmar Aliyev pasted onto the sidewalk in front of the Flatiron Building—was created for the cover of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The publication commissioned the artist to create the piece, as well as photograph it from a helicopter’s-eye-view. The magazine captured the entire enterprise for a VR experience it’s releasing today at its NewFronts presentation.

“Quite apart from the virtual reality part of it, this cover was wildly ambitious and kind of insane,” saysTimes Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein. “We took a photograph, pasted it on the ground, flew up in a helicopter, and took a picture of it. Part of me thought, ‘Nobody’s going to believe that we did that.’ They’re going to think it’s Photoshop or something. It was a wonderful opportunity to use VR to transport a reader not to a place that’s unattainable—because this is just right in the middle of Midtown Manhattan—but to a time, a time that is now lost.”

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