Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Up There

They do it dozens of storeys above the ground, pushed by winds and swinging dangerously over the streets far below.

They do it in searing heat, in rain, and in freezing cold, their fingers numbed and their shoulders and necks aching.

They do it for hours straight, in an "old school" tradition being lost to modern technology.

They do it only after long apprenticeship, starting first with learning the rigging ropes they need to climb the sides of buildings and work in place.

They do it up there, these men who hand-paint ads.

UP THERE from Jon on Vimeo.

The documentary Up There was shot in New York City as part of The Ritual Project commissioned by Stella Artois. The three-week project, which tells the story both of the craft of wall painting and the men who do it, culminated in a 20' x 50 ' stop-frame animation, the start-to-finish parts of which can be found here.

Go to the "Project Journal" for profiles, interviews, images, and other related materials that capture the day-by-day creation of the documentary.


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

This is absolutely wonderful. I grew up in the NYC area but have now lived in Spain for the last 25 years. Like many, I have always loved and been fascinated by the vintage photos from the 1930s of construction workers nonchalantly eating their lunches while sitting on building girders hanging hundreds of feet up in the air. These painters somehow strike me as their heirs. I followed the link you helpfully provided to the ritual project site and found it enthralling. It features a link to a “ghostsigns” blog dedicated to finding and archiving images of the faded remains of hand painted advertisements. The painters featured in the film are surely the last of a dying breed. I am so glad this film has been made. From now on I will look at such ads with different eyes and recall this documentary and your post. Really appreciate it.

Maureen said...


Your comment was a delight to read. Thank you.

I, too, found the documentary fascinating. I had occasion not too long ago to hear artist James Rosenquist speak of his early days as a sign-painter in New York City and Brooklyn. He told some wonderful tales about his experiences.

Louise Gallagher said...

Oh my -- I never knew this and wow! that is amazing.

See, there is art everywhere. All we have to do is look up!

thanks maureen -- and Lorenzo.

Very very cool.

S. Etole said...

"There's no easy way to do it ..."
What a dedicated, talented group of people. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Anonymous said...

a very well done documentary.

i would like very much to see these guys get a chance to reproduce other types of art as well onto the buildings. such as, some art other than advertising art. if i had the money i would hire them to put up something really fun...a mural to beat the band, man.

i have never been to new york. after watching some of the photography on this documentary, i think i would spend a lot of time climbing around parts of the city getting pictures if i lived there.

Cassandra Frear said...

Now this is interesting. And I have never thought about it before. How many things in life are like this? There is so much we don't notice.

Duane Scott said...

Very cool!

Anonymous said...

Great find M. I was deeply moved by this.

Brad Moore said...

Very cool.

Now, we just have to figure out how to get Nancy to visit New York City!