Photo exhibit puts city projects in focus

Photo exhibit puts city projects in focus

The Art League of Long Island will present a photographic exhibition of the award-winning book Project Lives–New York Public Housing Residents Photograph Their World.  

The exhibit will be on view in the Art League’s Strolling Gallery from June 21 to Aug. 22. 

Project Lives takes you on a remarkable journey into a world turned inside out, where the camera’s subject becomes the storyteller. Participatory photography — of which this collection marks one of the largest efforts anywhere — approaches a new visual medium, a universal language speaking across borders and cultures. 

What happens within these brick walls is visible and real and you can see it all at the Art League of Long island. Be prepared to be amazed.

Discover how participatory photography is mightier than the sword. Hear how a few social-minded New York photographers decided to empower the powerless with cameras and pens. See for the first time a group of people, invisible to most of the world, tell their story in their own pictures and words.

Project Lives originated when, on behalf of his 501(c) (3) non-profit Seeing for Ourselves, George Carrano pitched the idea of a participatory photography program to the New York City Housing Authority in early fall 2010.  

The NYCHA recognized that the poor public perception of the projects and their residents did not serve either the residents or the cause of public housing well.  The program was a success and by the time it eventually did come to an end in May 2013, it had ballooned to serve hundreds of residents of 15 housing projects.

While tens of thousands of New Yorkers had enjoyed the photographs online, this audience was insufficient for Project Lives to fulfill its aim of pressing the reset button in terms of support of public housing by all levels of government. 

So George conceived of a book that would allow the photographs, combined with a meaningful backstory, to extend their reach.  Already thrilled by the publicity accorded their photographs online, the photographers were overjoyed at the prospect of a book showcasing their work.  So with the aid of Chelsea Davis and Jonathan Fisher, the book was published in April 2015.

By using their single-use film cameras as a window into the heart of the projects and a creative instrument of hope, the courageous souls who set out on a daunting mission — to change how their neighbors, friends, relations, and very lives are viewed by America — may accomplish more than helping preserve their homes.

Project Lives brings you a unique experience of a city within a city. These 18 large format self-captioned color photographs created to accompany publication Project Lives tell the story of the people and by the people and you can see it at the Art League. 

For a generation, tabloids, television, and Hollywood have defined the public image of New Yorkers who live in the city’s 334 housing projects.

Focusing on crime, disrepair, and other ills that afflict these islands of red brick, such portrayals ironically have made it all too easy for government to reduce the support these projects have relied on since their birth some 80 years ago. And so conditions worsen further yet, as buildings try to soldier on past their useful life, at times crumbling around the 400,000-plus tenants. What if these New Yorkers had the tools and training to document their own lives? And the opportunity to share the result?

 Long Island artist and photographer Holly Gordon, in her book review of Project Lives noted:  “Yes, they were taken in the housing projects but they are universal icons of daily life in America in our time. Their unpretentious truth has the power to change how we see life in the projects. Perhaps, we may even become more sensitive to our own daily lives as well as to each other wherever we live.  These pictures might have been plucked from any of our smart phones or family albums. But it was New York City housing project residents from children to seniors, with no previous photographic skills, who documented their lives. Their photos and words are filled with hope and love and family and life, even though they live in an environment where the deck certainly seems to be stacked against them”.

 The Art League of Long Island not-for-profit art visual arts organization located at 107 East Deer Park Road in Dix Hills. The Strolling Gallery is open to the public, free of charge mornings and afternoons during weekdays and during class sessions on the weekends.  

For more information about the gallery or to arrange a tour visit or call (631) 462-5400.  Learn more about Project Lives at

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