I may have been born in Florida, but New York City has been my home for more than a decade. It’s my home base where I get to relax, recharge, find inspiration, and build my community.
Work has sent me travelling often over the last few years, which didn’t allow much time for exploring New York to take photographs. The pandemic changed that in an instant.
When Covid-19 hit, lockdown turned into weeks, and then months, I couldn’t do much other than take photos of my home and my cat. Though I used my camera occasionally in 2020, it spent a lot of time on the shelf. Motivation was hard for anyone to find, including all of us living in New York.
That’s why it was such an emotional moment to finally be able to go outside and start taking photos again. This spring, it felt like the air was buzzing with a collective joy. Being able to walk out my front door, go outside safely, and take portraits again was an adrenaline rush.
How New York got its groove back
New York has always been known as a strong city that breeds tough people. Watching New Yorkers regain their signature energy while also attaining a new sensitivity and humility was refreshing and inspiring.
Everyone is starting to thrive again, but we sometimes still feel dazed at the same time. When going out to a bar, or weekly karaoke like I used to with my friends, there is a palpable appreciation for things we long took for granted.
When places that I love, including Coney Island, began to gather crowds again, it gave me and other New Yorkers a sense of hope after a long period of sadness, especially after the lockdowns.
I am a Coney Island evangelist and if I ever meet someone who hasn’t been, I make sure to take them and force them onto all the scary rides. It is the best place to go in the summer to lay on the beach, people-watch on the boardwalk, get on rides, win silly prizes, and end it all with a Cyclones baseball game.
There was so much talk about ‘New York is Dead’, and though I never agreed, it was definitely scary to see a place that is normally so vibrant become a ghost town. Then, suddenly, as if someone flipped a switch overnight, New York went back to being the crazy, chaotic, and incredible place it has always been.
All the pent-up energy ended up bursting onto the streets, parks, beaches, and more. It reminded me of why I love this city, maybe more than I ever have before.
Remember to stop and look at the world around you
While I’ve immensely enjoyed re-exploring New York, it was also immensely refreshing to travel around the country again. Being able to visit other states showed me that other parts of America were also slowly healing.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that we should never take the small pleasures in life, like going outside to say hello to friends and neighbors, for granted ever again. The pandemic also re-invigorated my wanderlust, because spending all those months cooped up taught me that the ability to do something like go on a spontaneous cross-country trip can be taken away in an instant.
I was always a walker, and I've walked several pilgrimages in my life thus far. The past year has changed my walks from a time to explore to a daily ritual of reflection and growth. I've walked everywhere from Coney Island to Prospect Park, my neighborhood, in circles, north and south, whatever side of the street the sun is hitting. I've been surprised to learn it never gets old, and even when I walk the same streets, I see something new every time. It is something I intend to hold onto long after the pandemic is behind us.
This final shot taken of the sunrise eclipse on June 10th was spectacular and otherworldly. I immediately turned to my friends and said, "It’s like we're on a sci-fi planet." There are few places to witness the sunrise in New York City, but I was lucky enough to watch it from Edge NYC, an outdoor viewing platform that sits over 1,000 feet above the city. I was joined by other photographers, news crews, and lucky visitors there to witness the natural phenomenon. It had been a long time since I'd experienced collective awe – it feels like a blessing, and it reminds me of how important it is to live and discover joy in the present.
Michael George is one of the judges of the vivo VISION+ Mobile PhotoAwards 2021. The VISION+ Project gives photographers a platform for their work to be featured and rewarded. This year’s theme, ‘Create Together’, focuses on photographs of one’s surroundings – be they interpersonal relationships, the streets around them, their homes, and their daily lives. Learn how to enter here.