Picture This: A customized box truck and photo booth made the scene at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus on March 25. Passersby posed for the camera, and poster-size prints were pasted on the 60th Street wall as part of Inside Out, a project by the artist JR. (Photos by Ryan Brenizer)The printer wouldn’t cooperate and a rain shower cut short the pasting. But for a few hours on March 25, Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus was abuzz with creative energy, as a blank concrete wall alongside the Lowenstein Center was festooned with oversize paper portraits of people from the community.
The team of Inside Out, a project by the artist JR, parked a customized box truck and photo booth on West 60th Street. Project volunteers asked passersby if they wanted to have their picture taken for a larger-than-life photo that would be posted on the wall.
The project attracted a medley of characters: Residents of nearby buildings, members of the Fordham community, and teens walking from their school on Amsterdam Avenue to the nearby subway station lined up to be photographed.
Technical issues forced the team to print the portraits at its SoHo studio (and not in the truck, as planned), leading to a lag during which they were only able to take pictures. But once they began wheat-pasting photos to the wall, the event, which has taken place in cities internationally, began to take shape. The crew hung 28 portraits before rain forced them to return several days later to paste the rest of the approximately 100 portraits that were taken.
Photos by Ryan Brenizer
Inside Out is the creation of JR, a former graffiti artist from Paris who became famous for pasting images of human faces on massive canvasses around the world. He was awarded the 2011 TED Prize, which came with $100,000, a prize meant to fund the winner’s “wish to change the world.”
That wish, he said in his acceptance speech, was to “stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world inside out.” He said art is not supposed to change the world in practical ways, but to change perceptions. “What we see changes who we are. When we act together, the whole thing is much more than the sum of the parts.”
The project was brought to Fordham by the University’s urban studies program’s distinguished visitor series. The series is funded by a grant from the law firm Podell, Schwartz, Schechter & Banfield, of which Fordham alumnus Bill Banfield, FCRH ’74, is a partner.
JR was invited to be this year’s distinguished visitor, as part of the program’s focus this year on urban arts. Other events have included a visit by filmmaker Andrew Padilla and a screening of his film El Barrio Tours, and a conference on “Law, Space, and Artistic Expression.”
Mark Street, assistant professor of visual arts at Fordham, said he first encountered Inside Out in 2013, when the crew photographed 6,000 people over three weeks in Times Square. Photos have also been posted in North Dakota, Tunisia, the South Bronx, Tanzania, and the North Pole. He liked the project’s simplicity and accessibility to the public, so he approached the group on behalf of Fordham.
“This project takes street photography and makes it personal by taking literally anyone’s photograph and putting it on the wall,” he said. He also liked he fact that the project was open to those outside of the Fordham community because although Fordham is a private university, it shares a lot of space with the general public.
“The idea of Inside Out is to play with that liminal space of the public and the private a little bit,” he said. “At its best, this wall will be an amalgam of whoever happens to wander by.”
One random passerby was Jacqueline Gonzalez, who was walking with her 4-year-old daughter Mia back to their apartment. Mia, who proudly showed off her “funny face” for volunteers, had her picture taken. Mom was camera shy, but she loved the project.
“It’s really busy around here, and I don’t really stop that much. But now that there’s art here, maybe I’ll stop more often,” she said.
For Rosemary Wakeman, PhD, director of the Urban Studies program, JR’s focus on spontaneous public involvement made him especially attractive.
“JR’s project highlights urban art and public space and the ways in which the city acts as a collective canvas,” she said.
Victoria Monaco, a Fordham College Lincoln Center junior, found out about the project that morning and came by. She said street art is integral to New York City.
“I very much consider myself a part of the city, so to have my image physically be a part of the city as well, even if it is for a short period of time, is really cool,” she said.
Vincent DeCola, SJ, assistant dean of students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, made sure Fordham administrators were represented on the wall. He counts himself a fan of public art, something he said the wall on West 60th Street sorely needed.
“Personally, I don’t like walking down a street with a big cement wall. I’ll often go down another block where there are stores or activities,” he said. “Its great to bring some life, and it’s sort of like the face of Fordham.”
—Patrick Verel is the assistant editor of Inside Fordham.
Watch a video of the project.