The city in masks (La città in maschera) is an exhibition with 25 pictures by street photographers Francesca Magnanito see the Consulate General of Italy in New York.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many New Yorkers began to match their face coverings with their outfits, and at times this new mandatory and concealing accessory became a statement in itself. Although the mask was needed for a basic protective function, it gradually turned into a more complex object with several functions: communicating a message; express one’s mood, personality, ethnicity, or community; means mutual respect or belonging; or state a political stance.
With a background in classics and anthropology, Magnani has long been interested in questions of identity and self-expression and how people live and cope with their everyday challenges. She has been photographing New Yorkers in masks since the beginning of the pandemic; the project is still ongoing and now includes more than 600 images. Magnani is aware of the mighty power masks as artifacts, which at the same time remind us of an illness and are crucial for its defense.
“As a street photographer, I followed how people dealt with the pandemic in order to deal with the unknown. I was here on September 11th and during Sandy’s aftermath. And in March 2020 I saw a fear, an incredulity and a confusion in the facial expressions of the people and their way of moving on the street, which often corresponded to my own. “
Magnani walked through the many neighborhoods and gradually saw how people began to wear their feelings and expressions on a piece of cloth. She ran every day – in parks, in the subway, during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, in restaurants, over the bridges.
Whenever possible, Magnani talks to people about the masks she photographs as they often have a story. “Whether it was made by the mother, an aunt, a friend, or found in a basket with a message from a neighbor, I noticed that people were hanging on to the narrative behind the mask,” said Magnani. “And because I never plan these portraits, each mask reminds me of a particular route that I took over the last year; It marks a point in a new time in history where I learned to navigate myself and a spark of connection that helps me feel grounded and human. “
A number of images from the series were acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as part of the first series of multiples Digital purchases of the pandemic-related museum. Upon acquiring the images, Shannon Thomas Perich, curator of the Photographic History Collection wrote: “Your eye for interesting people and colors in NYC is wonderful. They understood and were able to see how individuals reacted to wearing masks and made them something to incorporate into their personality and personal expression. Your work, which reminds us of how people have adapted to this new way of moving through the world, is historically important. “
In addition, two Covid-19-related photos were part of New York answers. The first six months recently seen at the Museum of the City of New York; and a (May 10th) mask was part of the #ICP worried Group exhibition, now online.
The city in masks (La città in maschera), An exhibition with 25 pictures by street photographer Francesca Magnani can be seen from October 7 to November 11, 2021 by appointment in the Italian Consulate General, a listed mansion from 1917 at 690 Park Avenue. The exhibition is also available online at: https://www.francescamagnani.com/lacittainmaschera
To make an appointment to view the exhibition, please contact the artist’s studio at: www.francescamagnani.com/contact
About the artist
Francesca Magnani is a Brooklyn-based Italian photographer, writer, teacher, and translator. Born and raised in Padua, she joined the City University of New York, Graduate Center as a Fulbright Fellow in 1997. Since then, she has told the stories that move her in words and pictures, while at the same time recording her own lives.
Francesca Magnani: The City in Masks (La città in maschera)
October 7th – November 11th 2021
Consulate General of Italy in New York
690 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065