Portrait of a city

Back in October, a photographer set up a portable photo booth outside the Claremont Library and took photos of anyone willing to step inside.

The result is 214 photos, blown up and displayed in an unlikely place: outside a parking garage.

The 72-foot long installation faces a plaza leading into the Claremont Packinghouse. The B&W images show people against a white backdrop. Every person who stepped into the booth is represented.

Some smile, some look serious. Some clown. One covers his face with his hands. There are individuals, couples, whole families. One woman holds a bakery bag. A man, apparently a parking enforcement officer, clutches a ticket book.

I happened upon the exhibit as it was being installed and returned Monday for a look at the whole thing.

One element that struck me is how diverse the people are. Diverse in ages, from infants to seniors, and diverse in ethnicity, moreso than one might expect in Claremont.

Spend a few minutes taking in the photos and you cant help but be fascinated, and moved, by the humanity on display. I’m not sure I can explain why, but I get misty-eyed when I saw the portraits, and whenever I think of them too. There’s just a vulnerability, a playfulness, a serenity to the people in these candid photos, and seeing so many of them in one place has a powerful, humbling impact.

I think the photos are worthwhile even if you don’t live in Claremont, but living there does add a new element. These are our friends and neighbors, and youre bound to see someone you know represented, even if its just someone youve seen around the Village but cant place.

One familiar face is the white-bearded Ray Collins, a founding member of the Mothers of Invention, who can often be seen wandering the Village. (Collins has declined my interview requests, by the way, but weve had many friendly chats on various streetcorners.)

The photographer was Christopher Irion and his installation was commissioned by the Claremont Museum of Art, which is inside the Packinghouse.

We want to bring the museum out of these four walls. We want to put art where the people are, William Moreno, the executive director, told me.

The display will be up at least until Jan. 1. Highly recommended.

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  • Ann

    I love to people watch … that is why I am one of the insane people that shop on Black Friday … it’s a tradition with my daughters and me. Thanks for the heads up on the photos – we will try to get over to Claremont before the new year.

  • David-

    Thanks so much for letting us know about this exhibit. Mr. Big and I went this week. I recognized 3 people in the photos: one of the children’s librarians from the Claremont Village branch, and pictured together: a reporter and photographer from the Claremont Courier. I was suprised to not see some of the moms, dads and kids I’ve met in Claremont over the past few years. I also wondered how they protect the exhibit from the elements.