“Unframed — Ellis Island,” by the French artist JR; Inspired by Stephen Wilkes

September 25, 2014 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

Isolation ward, curved corridor, Island 3

Stephen Wilkes: Isolation ward, curved corridor, Island 3, Ellis Island

Via The New York Times

A new installation, "Unframed — Ellis Island," by the French artist JR, which brings this landmark building, its patients and staff members, to grainy but wrenching life. It is the first time in 60 years that the Ellis Island hospital has been open to the public. Tickets go on sale Thursday for guided tours that begin on Oct. 1.

Unframed — Ellis Island" is part of JR's larger "Unframed" series that puts archival photos in new contexts in places like Marseille, France; São Paulo, Brazil; and Washington. He was introduced to this project by a book, "Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom," the photographer Stephen Wilkes's exploration of the hospital in its wildest state, and quickly became obsessed with the grounds. Finishing the installation this month, he and his small team would arrive in the morning and wander all day, scouting out homes for their century-old charges, before taking the tourist ferry back to Manhattan, toting ladders and paste buckets.

"It's a really powerful place," said Mr. Wilkes, who photographed it the hospital from 1998 to 2003, and is now on the board of Save Ellis Island. He was particularly moved by the realization that some patients could see the Statue of Liberty from their sickbeds. "She's so close, and for many people who came to America and who never got out of that hospital, they never got to see any more than that," Mr. Wilkes said.
Their emotion lingered. "I would feel almost human energy in these empty rooms," he said.

Read the full article here.

View Stephen Wilkes' Ellis Island collection here.

Tags: JR Stephen Wilkes statue of liberty Immigrants Ellis Island documentary photography immigration