Finding Beauty in the Mask: Photographer AJ Stetson Chronicles Masked NYC

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Our guest, renown photographer AJ Stetson, has made deeply moving art from the faces of a pandemic. Since recovering from COVID-19 in April of 2020, AJ has created portraits of more than one thousand New Yorkers wearing masks for an exhibition called Masked NYC: Witness to Our Time, using a telephoto lens to remain socially distanced, and always asking permission of the subjects or parents. New York’s Governor Cuomo shared this project as the Deep Breath Moment of his email update on September 4, writing, “Stetson beautifully captures the diversity and strength of New Yorkers during this challenging year.” People of all ages and backgrounds have responded with enthusiasm and gratitude for these images, particularly for the hope they engender during the outdoor exhibitions, highlighting our diversity and collective resilience. Photographing as a passion since a childhood encounter with a crocodile, AJ began to explore the mysteries of the camera’s manual mode four years ago, and has since been traveling the world, capturing the radiance of his subjects and their environments, from portraits of Cirque du Soleil performers, ballet dancers, and athletes, to sea lion pups in La Paz and night skies over the Great Barrier Reef, to share the miraculousness within the extraordinary and the everyday. Today we talk to him about Masked NYC, hope, beauty and strength to be found in our shared experience of an unprecidented pandemic. With co-host Brody Levesque.

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