Ramon Vazquez graduating in a pandemic

Pandemic Class of 2020

18 Aug 2020 Manhattan
Ramon Vazquez graduating in a pandemic
Photo by Elias Williams

LOCATION: Times Square – Plaza at Broadway & 43rd – 44th Streets
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, academic institutions in New York City have altered how they pursue commencement ceremonies this year. Schools have either cancelled, postponed, or developed virtual ceremonies for 2020 graduates.

The traditional, in-person commencement ceremony is a rewarding moment for most graduates, celebrating several months or years of strenuous work. Any commencement ceremony outside of the norm means missing out on fulfilling and memorable moments, with proud family members and friends.

From pre-k to medical school, this work highlights New York City’s spring graduates and their diverse experiences at the height of the pandemic, during a significant time in their academic careers.

Featuring: Elias Williams


Elias Williams is a New York City-based photographer whose work honors under-represented people in the United States. Through portraiture and long-form essays, he studies the cultural and historical significance of everyday people within these communities.

His photographs have been showcased at the International Photo Festival Leiden, the Morris Museum, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Elias is also a contributing photographer to AARP, Bloomberg Markets, NPR, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal among others.

Williams is also a 2017 Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow, and 2017 recipient of the Bronx Council on the Arts’s Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) award, and he is currently participating in the 2020 World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.


Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places. Through the Square’s electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance’s own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district’s unique identity.

Generous support of Times Square Arts is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Visit www.timessquarenyc.org/arts for more information. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @TSqArts and Facebook at @timessquarenyc.


How does the photographer use posture, light, and environment to create compelling portraits?

Which story do you relate to the most?

How has the pandemic changed school for you or your family/friends? What do you miss? What are you grateful for?