New York Impressions

By Fabian Broeker • MSc Digital Anthropology alumnus

“The entire complex of urban life can be thought of as a person rather than as a distinctive place, and the city may be endowed with a personality – or, to use common parlance – a character of its own. Like a person, the city then acquires a biography and a reputation.” 

Anselm L. Strauss, Images of the American City 

This short film, or rather visual logbook, New York Impressions, came into being as a result of walking through the city and capturing moments that were particularly characteristic of the city’s “personality”. Words alone often do not suffice in addressing that which we may term experiential. The focus here was primarily on architecture and space, aligned to be particularly representative of my own perception of this city, the imagined New York. 

The moving images are juxtaposed against a local radio recording of Sha Na Na at Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park on July 30, 1972, allowing the past to echo alongside the present. A radio recording of Central Park broadcast to listeners far and wide, and indeed those not yet alive. Consequently, the layers of history that mask city spaces, especially if we see media as amplifying events, images and sounds so that they may encompass the whole imagined environment of the city, are revealed. It seems, in illusory fragments, that the city itself, the famed brand and imagined environment of New York, is the one reaping the applause. The film is thus an attempt to capture, at least on a very small scale, the city’s “personality”.

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