Artsy Insight: Coke Wisdom O’Neal and The Box

Coke Wisdom O’Neal first created “The Box” series of photographs in Manhattan’s Riverside Park in 2005. With the help of his father and young son, O’Neal built the 22-foot-tall box out of wood, intentionally attracting attention to himself and the project. Seeking interaction with locals and passersby, O’Neal was thrilled when people walking through the park asked to have their photographs taken inside of the box. “Since it was this big, large, absurd thing, people would just come to me and ask me what I was doing,” said O’Neal, “and I would shoot with a larger camera. [It] was a way to draw people in.” Following its popularity in Manhattan, O’Neal has since set up “The Box” in Queens’ Socrates Sculpture Park, as well as San Isidro, Texas, and will soon take it to Tucson, Arizona. O’Neal uses these photographs to visualize and understand different people in different places; “[people] were drawn to it,” he said, “and they would stand in it, and I would try to capture who they were.”

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