By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Graphic Artists Marc Brown and Richard Brathwaite are members of a behind-the-scenes team of workers who rely on their creativity to portray and promote city programs.
Brown and Brathwaite create brochures, subway ads, pamphlets, billboards, public service announcements, booklets and banners to inform the public about city initiatives, and they also work on in-house material for city agencies.
Brown designed the city’s I am NYC identification card used by more than 1 million residents. Brathwaite designed the cover and produced photos for a major mayoral report on homelessness.
Away from the city jobs, the Local 375 members devote their free time to depicting the daily lives of New Yorkers.
Brown’s passion is recording the city’s subway culture. Brathwaite walks the streets with his cellphone and Canon camera while on the lookout for images of everyday people.
Recently, their work was featured in a month-long show at the gallery in the office of the Manhattan Borough President in the Municipal Building at 1 Centre St.
Searching for ideas, Brown carries a sketch pad when he rides the subway to and from work at the Human Resources Administration.
“I see the subway as a microcosm of New York,” Brown said. “It’s the great equalizer, where you have the homeless and the wealthy traveling in the same car.”
“For me, photography is the quickest way to communicate what I see in daily life,” Brathwaite said. “I am capturing the personality and character of New York.”
One striking photo of Brathwaite’s is a shot of a tenor sax player at Battery Park
Gardens. This photograph brings to mind jazz artist Sonny Rollins’ time from 1959 to 1961 in self-exile from jazz clubs when he devoted himself to playing on the Williamsburg Bridge to refine his skills.
“I was walking along with my camera when I heard this beautiful sound,” Brathwaite said. “I found this man blowing his horn. I pointed to my camera to see if it was OK to shoot him and he nodded.”
Another of his favorites is a photo of former Mayor David Dinkins on the campus of Columbia University walking up an outdoors stairway on his way to class surrounded by students. Dinkins attended the opening of the show at the Manhattan Borough President’s office on Sept. 17.
During the evening three to five times a week, Brown goes to a Manhattan art studio where he has access to equipment, paint and artistic material that he lacks at home.
“My studio is my home,” said Brathwaite,” who basically only needs his cameras and computer for his artwork.
As a youngster, Brown was a subway graffiti artist, and he decorated No. 6 trains kept near his home. A junior high school teacher steered Brown to the High School of Fashion Industries. He earned his bachelor of fine arts at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before winning his job at HRA, he was a City Parks Worker.
Brathwaite is self-taught.
“This is my dream job,” Brathwaite said about his work at HRA.
“Coming to work is like therapy. There’s a satisfaction of doing what you love while providing a service for the people of the city.”
Brown has a blog called Transit Line (https://transitlines.wordpress.com). His work is also on Instagram (@buz163) and Twitter (https//twitter.com/hashtag/buz163). Brathwaite’s’ Instagram handle is @richbrat_photos.
The DC 37 Blog is an official on-line publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 public employees who work in New York City.