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Ex-footprint resident and street photographer Jeff Mermelstein: a commission to photograph "spontaneous sightings" at Barclays

In Brooklyn, a Shrine to Sports and Consumerism, the New York Times published online 4/18/19 and in print (Metropolitan section) three days later. Wrote John Leland:
For nearly four years, the street photographer Jeff Mermelstein had free rein to shoot the congregants at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — pilgrims to the temporary shrine of Jay-Z or Barbra Streisand or the Nets or professional wrestling.
Mr. Mermelstein earned the assignment the hard way: his loft had to be torn down to make room for the arena. From this fraught start began a longstanding friendship with the arena’s chief developer, Bruce Ratner, who commissioned Mr. Mermelstein to do his stuff, no strings attached.
Bruce Ratner, art patron and champion of free expression? Not necessarily; remember those gag orders requiring apartment sellers to play nice?

Well, Mermelstein did apply his signature style; his photos, at least as shown in the Times, were rather unflattering.
Jeff Mermelstein, courtesy of Jeff Mermelstein/TBW Books
"An overall grotesque scene," one reader commented. (Surely those who buy tickets to Barclays sign, likely without much recognition, an agreement to be photographed.)

Wrote Leland:
For the photographer, this often meant looking down. Whatever passion drove people to the arena, whatever faith united them, they tended to spill a lot of crap on the floor. Ketchup, soda, clothing, beer, popcorn — for Mr. Mermelstein, each mess suggested some activity that was now past, survived only by this clue. Who places a full bucket of popcorn in an arena corridor?
Pushing the envelope

Note that Mermelstein is very unafraid to push the envelope.

In reaction to his separate project photographing people's cell phone messages, on the photo community site Fstoppers, photographer Laura Ersoy wrote, "While I'm all about exploring new art forms, in my opinion, Mermelstein's photos may be more of an invasion of privacy, rather than curiosity." All 21 commenters agreed.

The book

The ensuing Barclays-based book is called Arena. From TBW Books:
Arena was shot during a four year tenure that began in 2012 on the day Barclays Center in Brooklyn first opened its doors to the public. Charged with the extraordinary commission to photograph over 350 events held in Barclays’ first years, Arena marks a particularly prolific period of Jeff Mermelstein’s career.
Though known for works created against the backdrop of the streets of NYC, Mermelstein here moves inward through the lobbies, hallways, and snaking corridors that funnel spectator and staff alike toward the center’s hallowed stage.
He maneuvers through the shuffling crowds, slowing down, crouching low, casting his gaze toward the pedestrian and discarded to illuminate a new path: a vision leading away from the main attraction, back towards the uncommon-common. Mermelstein revels in the vibrant-uncanny embedded in the overlooked and mundane.

We never see a basketball game, a concert, or boxing match, instead our eyes fix upon more revealing and intriguing spontaneous sightings:
-Bright lights glisten across plastic sweat and the sheen of well-heeled artificial tans.
-A deserted latex glove on the terrazzo floor channels a crime scene next to a half-gallon of spilled ketchup.
-Hands exchange greetings, limbs entangle across knots of bodies, and a quiver-full of forks spear into plattered hors d'oeuvres.
-Magic mirrors cast would-be reflections off of white-Ts to merch buyers as an endless chain of receipt tape ticks off the consumables carried hand-over-fist-over-mouth through throngs of standing-room-only.
Other work

Mermelstein has done some more conventional photography. A 9/2/13 Daily News article, Massive sculpture at Barclays Center earns oversized praise from commuters, credited Mermelstein the photo of Ona (Polish for "she"), the massive, gyro-esque sculpture by Ursula von Rydingsvard

In an interview with the digital projection company DMB regarding his project "Basketball in Brooklyn," at the Dean Playground near Barclays Center, Mermelstein explained his impetus:
We used to live in a loft building, a converted old Spalding Factory in Brooklyn that was eventually torn down to make way for the building of a basketball arena, the Barclays Center. When we learned that we would need to leave our home for the building of this arena the subject of basketball began to glow in my mind. Around the corner from our loft is the Dean Playground where during the Summer months there is great activity of street basketball.

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