Walking Men 99 - A Public Art Installation

Created by Maya Barkai

99 Church Street, New York City - January 2010 - December 2010

Located on the construction site of 99 Church Street in Manhattan, Walking Men 99™ is a site-specific public art installation that joins together photographs of 99 pedestrian traffic lights icons from cities around the world, created by artist Maya Barkai

Driven from the vocabulary of urban circulation and metropolitan life, the “walking man” figure is an international symbol that appears in various forms in cities worldwide, transcending all cultures and languages. The traffic-light ‘walking men’ come to life in Walking Men 99™ as they are juxtaposed with one another, taking on a newly charged symbolic metaphor of worldwide significance. The individual images were created as part of Barkai’s Walking Men Worldwide™ project, through a process of collaboration with professional and amateur photographers from around the world. The project is a cultural representation and a subjective interpretation of our urban environment.

Barkai's project began in 2004, during Mayor Bloomberg initiative to replace the standard traffic light signs with  "more pedestrian friendly" symbols. Barkai noticed New York City's pedestrian character, and gradually began photographing different representations of similar icons around the world. The ‘walking man’ is an international celebrity and one of our most recognizable figures, says Maya Barkai “Standardized yet diverse, they commonly show us the safe way of travel".  

As the project slowly took shape, research revealed fascinating urban stories relating to the ‘walking man’ as a unique social entity in its own. One can be seen in East Berlin’s Ampelmannchen (=little traffic-light man), which has come to be seen as a nostalgic sign for the former German Democratic Republic. It was created in 1961 by traffic psychologist Karl Peglau, who theorized that people would respond better to traffic signals if presented by a friendly figure; and so, a red light extends his arms to signal "stop", as the green-hated-man confidently strides ahead to signal "go".

The project will open this January 2010 and will run for a year. The installation, 500 feet long, comprises of 99 “walking men” printed in life-size scale and stretched along three street façades, starting at 99 Church Street, and continuing on Park Place and Barclay Street.

For further information about the project, please visit www.walking-men.com


Re: Construction is a public art program produced by The Downtown Alliance with the supportive help of LMDC and Silverstein properties. The project is curated by Ayelet Danielle Aldouby and Elinor Milchan of ARTEA Projects.


About Maya Barkai

Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Maya Barkai is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts’ Photography Department (BFA, Honors 2005), and has been based in New York City for the past seven years. She spent her military service in the Israeli Defense Forces as a military photographer for the IDF Official Magazine, “BaMachaneh”. Maya Barkai is the photographer for different magazines and freelance editorials, including the largest news publications in Israel, and various international clientele, such as Penguin Group, Nerve, and ‘W Magazine & Guess?’ who chose her work to be part of Behind The Lens: Next Fashion Photographer’ showcase. Barkai’s work has been exhibited in Israel, the United States, and China, as she is the recipient of the National Press Photographers Foundation Grant (2005). Most recently, her work was included in the Sony World Photography Awards (2008).

Additional images and information about Maya Barkai can be found at: www.mayabarkai.com