From Every Country

Photography

 

iraq

 

 

Danny Goldfield's image of Basim Erzouki, representing Iraq, was chosen for Life magazine's cover in June, 2006. Basim was 3 years old when this picture was taken. (Courtesy of Danny Goldfield)

 

The image above hangs on the walls of Park51 along with another 170 faces of children from almost every country in the world.

 

Park 51 opened its doors to the public last September with NYChildren,* a photo exhibit and ongoing project created by Danny Goldfield, with the goal to photograph a child from every country on earth living in New York City.

 

The name Park51 may ring a bell, it is the controversial Islamic cultural center, located in downtown New York City, better known as the mosque at Ground Zero or even as the “victory mosque” for those who remember the media frenzy in 2010.

 

While Park51 was all the rage two years ago, today this photo exhibit located in the center which is still under development, is a gem hidden in plain sight.

 

It’s about “getting children from all over the world together regardless of their background and their nationality,” says Hind Erzouki, the mother of now eight-year-old Basim. “It’s a great thing for him to meet and learn more about other people.”  

 

 

abdulah
Abdullah (left) representing Sudan and Basim (right) representing Iraq,   pose  in front of their portraits at the opening of NYChildren at Park51. (Photo by Jika González)

 

 

Danny Goldfield had the idea for NYChildren nearly a decade ago while driving across the United States. His road trip led him to Rana Sodhi, an Indian-born Sikh who lost two brothers after 9/11. It is believed that both brothers where targeted due to their physical appearance, they both wore traditional Sikh turbans, and were likely mistaken for Muslims.

 

Goldfield was appalled by the story that Sodhi shared but was also amazed at Sodhi’s response to these hate crimes. “The prescription was to get out of his house and meet his neighbors in order to get to know them, all in the hopes of reducing danger for himself, his family and his community, “ Goldfield recounts. “I thought this was rather brave.”

 

Goldfield decided to do just that, to go knocking on people’s doors, and started his mission to photograph a kid from every country living in New York all while getting to know his neighbors.

 

What’s great about NYChildren is that it’s an ongoing project that may never be completed. “I struggle because there are almost as many disputed territories as there are countries,” says Goldfield.  He goes by the countries recognized by the United Nations, the list of countries he considers to be the least controversial,

 

He has had the picture of Abdulah, the boy who represents Sudan, for years. With South Sudan becoming an independent nation in July 2011, Goldfield has to find another child to photograph. As long as the project continues it has the potential to encourage people of different backgrounds to come together.

 

 

sudan

 

Danny Goldfield's photograph of Abdullah represents Sudan.  South Sudan has since become an independent nation, adding another country to the list of missing images. (Courtesy of Danny Goldfield)

 

When Goldfield started his project it had nothing to do with Park51. One day he found himself at a community meeting in downtown Manhattan where Sharif El-Gamal, the real estate developer behind Park51, spoke of his idea for the center. “It was verbatim what my project was about, this whole idea of bringing neighbors together.”

 

Goldfield was stunned that El-Gamal had used those exact words, so he shared his photography project with him and they both decided it made perfect sense to have an exhibit at Park51. Both ideas are about “inclusion, community building and diversity,” says El-Gamal.

 

 

sharif

 

Sharif El-Gamal at the opening of NYChildrenat Park51. (Photo by Jika González)

 

While there are those who still oppose the existence of the community center due to its location and Islamic roots, a part of the center is now open to the public. It is far from completion but has begun to offer programs of education, arts, and culture. It aims to “weave the Muslim-American identity into the multicultural fabric of the United States.”

 

“What they are trying to do down there is incredibly generous,” says Goldfield. “They are building a center that is going to provide facilities and amenities for a community that they are a part of.” The debate will go on, about whether or not the development of Park51 should continue,  but while its there and as long as it offers programs like NYChildren, the community should embrace it. 

 

 

children

The opening of NYChildren at Park51. (Photo by Jika González)

 

*NYChildren at Park51 will be open at least until January 21st 2012. 

 

While there are those who still oppose the existence of the community center due to its location and Islamic roots, a part of the center is now open to the public. It is far from completion but has begun to offer programs of education, arts and culture. It aims to “weave the Muslim-American identity into the multicultural fabric of the United States.”

 

The debate will carry on, about whether or not the development of Park51 should continue, but while its there and as long as it offers programs like NYChildren, the community should embrace it. “What they are trying to do down there is incredibly generous,” says Goldfield. “They are building a center that is going to provide facilities and amenities for a community that they are a part of.”

 

NYChildren at Park51 will be open at least until January 21st 2012

 

 

Follow Jika on Twitter @Jikaglez

 

 

Danny Goldfield, Exhibition, New York, New York City