Covid-Safe Outdoor Photo Exhibit of Masked Portraits By AJ Stetson near Union Square Artist photos by CJ Rivera


Witness to Our Time

By AJ Stetson

Free, Covid-Safe Outdoor Photo Exhibit of Masked Portraits near Union Square

September 9 – October 7

Daily, sunrise to sunset

Friends Meeting House

East 15 Street and Rutherford Place

With most museums and galleries shuttered for months during the Covid pandemic, artists have been yearning to respond, reach out, and connect. MASKED NYC: Witness to Our Time, photos by AJ Stetson, is a Covid-safe exhibition in response to that call.

From September 9 through October 7, 2020, every day from sunrise to sunset, a selection of more than three dozen four-foot vinyl panels, drawn from a revolving exhibition of 525 photo portraits of masked New Yorkers, will be displayed at six feet apart on the historic cast-iron fence of the Quaker Meeting House on East 15 Street and Rutherford Place.

The exhibition will open with a socially distanced reception in the Meeting House courtyard, Wednesday, September 9 at 5 p.m., followed by a silent vigil at 6:30 p.m. for Covid victims, their families, and others suffering from racial injustice and economic deprivation.

After recovering from Covid-19 and a solitary 25-day quarantine in his bedroom, AJ Stetson began capturing portraits of his masked housemates and bicycling through the boroughs of New York City, photographing friends and the larger community of masked New Yorkers. In all cases, he asked for permission before photographing each subject and used a telephoto lens to remain socially distanced. And then, on May 25, after the virus had stopped the breath of so many worldwide, the police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to the neck of George Floyd, permanently stopping his breath.

Amidst the pandemic, and our country’s long overdue reckoning with racism, AJ has created these portraits of fellow New Yorkers, often at Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rallies, always with the subject’s or subject’s parent’s permission at a distance of at least six feet.

Work from this exhibit has been selected to be part of the 2019/2020 Chelsea International Photography Competition Exhibition as well as

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.

SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR VISITORS TO THE EXHIBITION: Each Sunday and Monday at 5 p.m. throughout this exhibition, AJ Stetson will be making portraits of masked New Yorkers at the entrance to Stuyvesant Square Park on Rutherford Place and East 16th Street. The photographer will email a JPG of each portrait to the subject.

All profits realized 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 our communities of color.

This exhibition has been made possible in part thanks to the Witness Fund Committees of 15th Street Monthly (Quaker) Meeting in New York.

Todd Drake, human rights artist and Outreach Coordinator at the Penington Friends House, helped guide this project into the current exhibition.

For more information, visit

or contact:


error: Content is protected !!