Here Be Dragons and the New York Times come together to capture the birth of a new large-scale street art installation in New York. Renowned French artist JR, famous for posting massive photographs in urban environments, attempts to create a poetic awareness of New York’s storied history as a city of immigrants. The monumental portrait was conceived as a cover for the NYT’s Walking New York issue.
The experience, Walking New York, was co-directed by Chris Milk, JR and Zach Richter and takes viewers through the making of the cover, a photograph of the 150-foot-tall portrait of a recent immigrant to NYC that was wheat pasted across the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza.
The New York Times asked JR to photograph recent immigrants and paste their images on the city’s streets, where they and other immigrants are often invisible. The pasting would be made in the heart of Manhattan, on Flatiron plaza, the triangle of pavement between Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 23rd Street.
Here Be Dragons documented every step of the way in virtual reality.
JR photographed 16 people who arrived in New York within the last year and made their portraits while they walked down the streets of NoLIta. (Some of these portraits can been seen here.) For the cover, JR zeroed in on Elmar Aliyev, a 20-year-old waiter at Old Baku, an Azerbaijani restaurant on Ditmas Avenue in Brooklyn. Elmar immigrated to the United States from Azerbaijan last August after he won the green-card lottery. He likes to walk in Central Park and around the Plaza, locations from his favorite movie, “Home Alone 2.” JR liked the way Aliyev swung his arms when he walked.
Aliyev’s picture was then printed on 62 strips of paper. On April 11, JR and his 20-person crew took these strips to Flatiron plaza and began affixing them to the ground at 4 a.m. The pasting took about three and a half hours and resulted in a 150-foot-tall image of Aliyev striding eastward. The sun came up. Pedestrians began to wander over Aliyev. Just as JR had predicted, they often walked right over him without even noticing.
To make out the image, you had to be high above. In the middle of the day, when the angles of shadow were favorable, we went up with JR in a helicopter who photographed the pasting, with all the cheerful and untidy street life of an early spring day in New York City happening on and around it.
The New York Times Magazine
JR, Chris Milk, Zach Richter
NY Times Editor-in-Chief
Rebecca Howard, Patrick Milling-Smith, Allison Kunzman, Catherine Waage, Samantha Storr
Director of Photography
Chief Technical Officer
VR Camera Technician
Livio Sanchez, Logan Hefflefinger