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Press Release: Photographer AJ Stetson Captures the Moment with Portraits of Masked New Yorkers


Press Release: Photographer AJ Stetson Captures the Moment with Portraits of Masked New Yorkers

NEW YORK (October 13, 2020) —Pace University to house a pop-up exhibition of Masked NYC: Witness to Our Time by AJ Stetson. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and many protests supporting racial justice, Stetson has created portraits of fellow New Yorkers wearing their masks, often at Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rallies. More than two dozen four-foot vinyl panels, drawn from more than 850 photographs taken, will be displayed for street-level, window viewing during daylight hours from October 13-25, 2020 at the gallery’s 41 Park Row location in Lower Manhattan.

After recovering from Covid-19 himself and withstanding a 25-day quarantine, Stetson began by capturing portraits of his masked housemates. Finally able to leave the house, he rediscovered New York City by bicycling through the boroughs, photographing friends and the larger community of masked New Yorkers. Then, on May 25, after coronavirus had stopped the breath of so many worldwide, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to the neck of George Floyd, stopping his breath and killing him. As New Yorkers rallied for racial justice, Stetson joined the protests and continued to document his neighbors, each expressing community care and individuality with their masks. In all cases, he asked for permission before photographing each subject and used a telephoto lens to remain socially distanced.

This exhibition was first displayed on the fence of the historic Quaker Meeting House on East 15th Street in Manhattan in September 2020. Future exhibitions have been confirmed for the Urban Justice Center and the Fourth Universalist Society. Profits 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 communities of color.

For additional information, please contact Sarah Cunningham, Pace University Art Gallery Director, at or 212-346-1733.

About the Artist

A longtime New Yorker, AJ Stetson has been photographing since a childhood encounter with a crocodile. His fascination with what he calls the “beauty of the miraculous and the mundane” has led him high and low, making both underwater and aerial photographs and videos on five continents. Subjects have ranged from sea lions in La Paz to the night skies on the Great Barrier Reef. Recent work also includes his fascination with bodies in motion that comprises Cirque du Soleil performers, ballet dancers, and athletes. He is a native of Rhode Island, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy, and a magna cum laude graduate of Williams College.

About the Art Gallery at Pace University

Founded with the conviction that art is integral to society, the Art Gallery at Pace University is a creative laboratory and exhibition space that supports innovation and exploration for both artists and viewers. Open to students, staff, and faculty from across the Pace campuses and, equally, to the Lower Manhattan community and visitors from around the world, the Art Gallery encourages personal investigation and critical dialogue via thought-provoking contemporary art exhibits and public programming. Enhancing the Art Department's BA and BFA programs, the Art Gallery offers students real-world opportunities to exhibit their own art and to work directly with professional artists to install and promote exhibitions.

About Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

Pace University’s liberal arts college, Dyson College, offers more than 50 programs, spanning the arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional programs (including pre-medicine, pre-veterinary, and pre-law), as well as many courses that fulfill core curriculum requirements. The College offers access to numerous opportunities for internships, cooperative education and other hands-on learning experiences that complement in-class learning in preparing graduates for career and graduate/professional education choices.

About Pace University

Pace University has a proud history of preparing its diverse student body for a lifetime of professional success as a result of its unique programs that combine rigorous academics and real-world experiences. Pace is ranked the #1 private, four-year college in the nation for upward economic mobility by Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights, evidence of the transformative education the University provides.