New York, New York

‘The streets will make you feel brand new . . .’

I don’t know if you’ve been to New York before but it really is something else. I can’t claim to be an expert but I had been once before, in August 2001, and was fortunate to be able to visit again this August. As far as visual culture is concerned, Manhattan really opens your eyes and invigorates your senses. Towering skyscrapers looming over you on all sides, Art Deco architecture and styling, 5th Avenue with its world famous designer shopping, the über-trendy fashion district, Broadway and its glamour and glitz, numerous museums and galleries and, of course, Times Square with its flashing lights, billboards and fascia advertising to name just a selection!

Visual culture of New York City

In terms of scale, we in England have nothing that can compare. Sure, you can go to the tower of London, the London Eye etc. and reach semi-dizzying hights. But try standing on the 70th floor Top of the Rock observatory of the GE Building, Rockerfeller centre’s enormous centrepiece and finding yourself looking to one side across to the enormous spread of Central Park and to the other upwards to the soaring Chrysler and Empire State buildings. It takes your breath away.

Central Park from the Top of the Rock

Taking the ferry across from Battery Park towards Liberty Island and its famous copper-plated inhabitant, you can look back towards the famous Manhattan skyline and take in its familiarity and wonder. But I can remember as I did so thinking something was missing – it didn’t quite look, well, right. It was only upon my return home when I found some old scans on disc from the photographs I took from that same New York Harbour (admittedly from a slightly different angle) some nine years before, almost to the day and 13 days before the world-changing events of 9/11, that I realised how easy is to forget quite HOW imposing and dominating those twin towers looked: how much they were the signature mark that proudly stated THIS IS NEW YORK.

Manhattan Skyline

Yet New York lives on and thrives. “I ‘Heart’ NY” tee shirts are everywhere – not worn ironically or even exclusively adorning the flocks of enthusiastic tourists. Visitors’ and residents’ paths intersect, and the movement, emotion and routine of real, ‘ordinary’ life is there for all to see.

If you want a challenge, try visiting New York City without your senses being provoked and stimulated by the scale, pride, energy and style on which it operates every day. Then let me know how you get on with that!

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