Where would we be without maps? From the early explorers’ beautifully drawn pieces of navigational art to the smartphone app in your pocket, humans have constantly been trying to chart our world and figure out where we fit into it.
But no matter their incarnation, maps dictate how we move around and see the world, something Becky Cooper understands well. “I am always lost,” she confesses.
During an internship the summer after her freshman year at Harvard, Cooper was hired by CultureNow to create a map of Manhattan’s public art. As the project grew increasingly large, and the dots marking the works she deemed “art” started multiplying, she began to question her work.
“Why do I have the authority to do this?” Cooper thought. “Even though I was placing the information on the map, I was making incredibly subjective decisions,” she said. With no background in art, she was “particularly aware that I should not have the authority that I had.”
She quickly came to the realization that no map is entirely accurate, or inaccurate for that matter. Each map is made from the subjective decisions, interpretations, and memories of its particular mapmaker. So she decided to put blank maps of Manhattan in the hands of ordinary—and extraordinary—New Yorkers to see how they viewed the city.
In Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers, Cooper persuaded a stunning array of New Yorkers to map the stories of their lives onto this great island. The curated collection, published by Abrams Image, forms a delightful tribute to the city of Cooper’s birth.