Thursday, Nov. 12 marked the 60th anniversary of the closing of the Ellis Island immigration facility. From 1892 until the center’s closing in 1954, the small island in New York harbor served as the official entry and processing point for over 12 million immigrants. It has been estimated that over 40 percent of Americans can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island.
In August 2014, photographer JR was invited to express his artistry on a portion of the island in a series called “Unframed,” and bring to life the memory of the thousands of immigrants who passed through the island. JR is known for his technique of fly posting large-scale photographs–mostly portraits–in public spaces. His public installations can be seen around the world from Brazil to Germany to Cuba, Kenya, and more.
For his series on Ellis Island, JR visited the former Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital located on the south side of the island and used historical photographs of immigrants and nurses from the early 19th century, enlarging them into prints and strategically overlaying them on to crackled walls and windows. The effect is a powerful reminder that the stories and faces of those who once passed through the hallways is still present in our collective memories.
All photos by JR