Earlier this month, workers with the French street artist JR covered a plaza in Manhattan’s Flatiron district with a giant, wheatpasted photograph of a guy walking. It was 20-year-old immigrant and Brooklynite Elmar Aliyev in mid-stride. The image was only up for a day, and almost no one noticed. But it would go on to create one of the most inventive magazine covers of recent memory.
Flip to this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, and you’ll see the image of Aliyev, shot from above, such that he appears to be marching right through midtown Manhattan, with the rest of New York oblivious to his existence. It looks like a Photoshop job. But, as the Times clarifies, it’s 100% real.
The cover is a commentary on the invisibility of immigrants, a theme JR has previously explored. “For this project, we decided we’d photograph recent immigrants and paste their images on the city’s streets, where they and other immigrants are often invisible,” the Times writes. The French artist photographed several different immigrants before landing on Aliyev, who came to New York from Azerbaijan last August after winning the green card lottery.
To take the photo that would become the magazine cover, JR and his team began pasting in the Flatiron at 4 a.m. April 11, sticking 62 large strips of paper, on which Aliyev’s photo had been printed, onto the cement. When they were done, pedestrians were free to use the plaza as normal, most of them wandering unaware over the image and inadvertently making JR’s point for him: even blown up to larger-than-life proportions, the city’s 3.1 million immigrants remain largely unseen.
Read more about the process here.