Before we entered an era of social distancing and face covering, Brooklyn-based artist Hidemi Takagi’s work relied heavily on socialization.

In fact, being around people and talking to people in her community were the inspirations for her latest work, “The Bed-Stuy Social ‘Photo’ Club.”

Takagi currently lives in Bed-Stuy, historically home to African-American and Caribbean communities. Many of the residents of this tight-knit neighborhood have known each other for years, and the feeling of community with her neighbors inspired the artist to photograph them in her front yard.

Takagi offered free portraits, and the subjects were allowed to use props or any other items to make their photos unique. The colorful project has been in the works since 2018.

Photo: Hidemi Takagi

“I made a flyer and posted it on the street. It said, ‘free photoshoot’ and I set up a stereo set,” Takagi said. “I invited some of my neighbors to come, and since we’re on the sidewalk, everyone can see what’s going on. People walking by were curious, so they signed up. I ended up taking a lot of strangers’ photos.”

“Sometimes when I photograph them they’re shy. And another person will try to get them to pose, making us all laugh,” she said. “It’s not just about the photographs: Everyone gets involved. Everyone participates.”

Hidemi Takagi. Photo: William Bastien

The aim of the installation isn’t only to show the beauty of the community but also to showcase her neighbors as the superstars that they are. After working on this project for the past two years, the pandemic placed a pause on Takagi’s creative work. But despite, the loss of communing with a group of people, the photographer has found a way to make it work.

“I feel like my life has changed completely. I spent the first two months of the pandemic thinking about what I could do,” she said. “So I started interviewing my neighbors. I shoot the video and there is a distance between us. It’s a different format, but I’m still working.”

The installation debuted in March at the Abrazo Interno Gallery of the Clemente Center but the coronavirus pandemic forced it to shut down.

Currently, the gallery is reopened but by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Yannise Jean

Yannise Jean is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in publications like Okayplayer and Well + Good. Follow her on Twitter @yjeanwrites.

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