Mass Appeal contributing photographer Neli Rodriguez goes beneath the surface of New York City to explore Manhattan’s storied Freedom Tunnel, named for artist Chris “Freedom” Pape. With walls covered with pieces by a who’s who of graffiti artists spanning decades, the Freedom Tunnel is hallowed ground for the graff community the world over.
“This past Easter I got the opportunity to visit one of NYC’s most prolific graff locations, the Freedom Tunnel, situated under Riverside Park. I’d heard about it for years but had to work up some nerve to actually pay it a visit. Accompanied by two street bombers from Queens, ‘Peal’ and ‘BMR,’ I made my way in. Nothing I’d ever photographed prepared me for the tunnel. I had the sense that I was embarking on an epic adventure, one that involved trespassing through a still very active Amtrak train tunnel. After the initial anxiety and slight feeling of claustrophobia faded, I began to take it all in.
With its beautiful lighting, and many pieces strategically placed under subway grates where light happens to break in ever so perfectly, walking though the tunnel almost felt like walking through a grand cathedral.
The further in we walked the more untouched and intact the pieces were, and that’s where we also saw some Freedom pieces, like his version of Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory‘ piece and his Venus De Milo as well. A return trip is most definitely in order to view more of Freedom’s pieces as well as work by other famed artists who have left their mark to be viewed by all those who dare to enter.” — Neli Rodriguez