Characters Welcome

A fellowship invites photographers to document New York and its denizens.

“The view becomes a character in the portraits, as important as the actual person,” Gail Albert Halaban—the current Photo Urbanism fellow at the Design Trust for Public Space—says about her series “Vanishing Views,” which frames New Yorkers against their cityscape. To find her ­subjects, the photographer takes out ads in local papers from Harlem to Hoboken, soliciting strangers who are affected by what they see out their windows and over their railings.

Photo Urbanism fellows examine the transforming city from different perspectives: Len Jenshel and Diane Cook (2002) explored the waterfront; Jonathan Smith (2004) investigated its bridges; and Travis Roozée (2005) ­documented the landscape of Jamaica Bay, Queens. The fellowships culminate in exhibitions, and after the fifth, the Design Trust will publish a book. Albert Halaban’s show is scheduled to go up next fall, but with all the characters she’s meeting through the classifieds, it doesn’t look like her series will end there. “Len and Diane’s project was supposed to last a year, and they’re still producing work five years later,” she says. “So I don’t expect to be done in a year. I expect to have made a very good start.”

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