Dorothy van Rij and Brian van der Leeuw’s like letter to New York City

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The couple became enamoured with the city during the Covid-19 lockdown, and travelled right now there when restrictions lifted to capture its streets with renewed perspective

We have been a couple for over nine years and our love is not only with each other, but additionally in a shared vision from the world around us, ” say Amsterdam-based photography duo Sarah van Rij plus David van der Leeuw. They have just released their particular new project, A Town Fantastic , and are reflecting on the conditions that inspired it.  

“Like most of us in the past couple of years we experienced multiple Covid-19 lockdowns, and during that time we attempted to keep the creative minds active by reading and watching movies and documentaries – in our case almost exclusively about New York City. ” But that which was it about New York that drew them? It might be a cliche, they say, but there is no other place like it. The town serves as a backdrop to a host of memorable 20th century stories. And, it really is known as one of the birthplaces associated with street photography. For the set, it is a strong reference burnt into their visual memories.  

© Sarah van Rij.

© David vehicle der Leeuw.

© Sarah van Rij.

© Sarah van Rij.

Over those long months stuck at home over the past two years, the pair immersed themselves in a mythical eyesight of NYC as portrayed by visionaries such as EB White, Gordon Parks and Alfred Hitchcock. “We got visited and fallen in love with the City before. But during this time period of constant daydreaming, this became something of an infatuation, like the ultimate form of fantasy for the both of us, ” they agree. They began making plans to visit New York the moment they could.  

When they lastly got there, however , their expectations and reality collided. “We felt exhilarated to get arrived, but we quickly realised it wasn’t the brand new York we’d imagined plus over-romanticised. Instead, we present a city in recovery, once again picking up the bits of a crisis. ” For the next five weeks, the duo sought to capture the particular essence of a city they had dreamed up in their thoughts, and the reality that displayed itself before them. Exploring the streets together, they will photographed similar scenes, taking the locations from multiple perspectives.

© David van der Leeuw & © Sarah van Rij.

© David van dieser Leeuw.

© Debbie van Rij.

The particular resulting images are split and dreamlike, with an abundantly cinematic feel. The glare of tall buildings and blurred images of passersby create movement. We feel as if we are pacing along the road and stealing glances alongside with the photographers. Noticeable icons of New York such as the Empire State Building are present in the pictures too, but they usually appear abstracted. Precedence is certainly given to smaller moments, as well as the everyday denizens who inhabit these streets.  

“Where most people would see only an abandoned office building, or even a lonesome mannequin standing in an empty store window, we chose to look for beauty instead, ” they explain. “We sought to capture the unstaged and almost indefinable elements of the town, be they vague silhouettes of people, or the vast quantity of colours, abstract shapes and poetic rhythms the city by itself consists of. The result is a shared perception of a place that transcends time – along with a deeply personal love letter to an endlessly magical town. ” 

V an Rij and van der Leeuw often wander the streets together with their particular cameras, sometimes seeking their very own images, and sometimes coming together on commissioned projects. A City Fantastic, however , can be their first personal work together. Now, they’re looking forward to potential projects. “Since we are both mostly inspired by cinema, we’re planning to shoot our first short fictional film in the near future, ” they show.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna T. Cresswell is a writer plus editor based in Brighton. She gets written on photography plus culture for over 40 cosmopolitan magazines and journals, plus held positions as publisher for organisations including The Photographers’ Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam plus Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative reading and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of Greater london

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