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Immortalizing The Culture of Rest in Peace Murals

Photographer Omar Hamdoun and digital artist Michael Brewer bear witness to the way New Yorkers mourn their loved ones in their book "See You On the Other Side."

Walking the streets of New York, they’re hard to miss.

The sprawling murals cover entire walls of buildings in some neighborhoods, emblazoned with the likeness of a deceased person and a few words in their honor. They might feature religious symbols and a depiction of the person’s cherished possession, like a car or a motorbike. Often, they don’t mention the cause of death; just a glimpse of the person in the way they may have wanted to be remembered, for the life they lived and the people who loved them.

Flatbush native Omar Hamdoun noticed the Rest in Peace murals ever since he was a child. A few years ago, he started taking pictures of them for his photography portfolio.

“They were much more common throughout the late 90s, early 2000s, you would see a lot of them,” he said. “And then at some point you wouldn’t see them as often. Or you would see one, and then it would be gone, somebody would paint over it.”

Hamdoun explains that Rest in Peace murals were more prevalent in past decades due to the sheer number of tragic deaths from factors such as the HIV epidemic, drug use and gun violence. Grieving loved ones get permission from landlords and then pay artists to create the elaborate depictions.


Hamdoun is Muslim, but he said he finds himself drawn to the Catholic imagery in some of his favorite murals. His admiration for the artwork led him to preserve and document them, because as buildings get sold or refurbished, the murals would be painted over, especially when they were several decades old.

Hamdoun took photos of as many murals as he could find and showed them to his close friend Michael Brewer, a digital artist.

Michael Brewer, left, and Omar Hamdoun. Photo by Anastasia Tomkin for BK Reader


“Omar was telling me about this project,” Brewer said. “I was like hey man, this is really beautiful, let’s put this together into a book.”

Over the course of two-and-a-half years, they compiled roughly 250 photos of murals from the five boroughs and in Philadelphia to create the book I’ll See You On the Other Side. 

Hamdoun would search for the location of murals via Google’s Streetview, while Brewer would later assemble and format the photographs. 

Most of the portraits from New York City are concentrated in the Bronx, but roughly 70 murals from Brooklyn are featured in the book.

Hamdoun notes that the concept of Rest in Peace murals for everyday people is a “very New York thing.” Some can be found in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, but not nearly as many as in New York City.

“They’re very popular with Hispanic – Puerto Rican and Dominican people,” Hamdoun said.

The duo held a book release party at a store called Noah in SoHo last summer, with a turnout of around 300 attendees.

“I feel like native New Yorkers, when we’ve shown them, have gotten especially excited,” Brewer added. “We talked to some people who knew some of the individuals, and they got pretty emotional just seeing them in the book.”

The book does not include the cause of death of the people depicted in the murals. Hamdoun didn’t feel the details were particularly relevant as sometimes the deaths were brutal, he said. It was more important to remember the person’s life: their interests, their faith and their physical being.

I’ll See You On the Other Side is available at Village Works and Fortune World, both in Manhattan. Or readers can purchase a copy online through the authors’ website.



Anastasia Tomkin

About the Author: Anastasia Tomkin

Anastasia is a BK Reader freelance journalist. She hosts a YouTube show called "The Police Accountability Project", where she interviews guests about the challenges to implementing police reform. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and salsa dancing.
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