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‘Empty New York’ Captures The City That Occasionally Sleeps

Curators’ Corner

‘Empty New York’ Captures The City That Occasionally Sleeps

The origin of the nickname “The City That Never Sleeps” dates back to 1912, the year Titanic made her first and final voyage.   Over 100 years have passed since the popular moniker was bestowed upon New York, and the label is just as accurate today as it was back then.

However, even the most seasoned insomniac needs shut-eye from time to time.  A series of photographs has re-surfaced, showing a beautifully empty and eerie New York City early on Sunday mornings in 1964.

Inspired by Eugene Atget’s photos of empty 19th century Paris, photographer Duane Michals created ‘Empty New York,’ capturing iconic New York locations at the crack of dawn without a soul in sight.

Speaking with the DC Moore Gallery where his photos were recently on display, Michals, now in his 80s, reminisced about wandering the endless streets and encountering no one.

“Everywhere seemed a stage set. I would awaken early on Sunday mornings and wander through New York with my camera, peering into shop windows and down cul-de-sacs with a bemused Atget looking over my shoulder… Everything was theatre; even the most ordinary event was an act in the drama of my little life.”

With more residents, tourists, buildings, and bustle than ever before, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see New York City in this way again.  Enjoy this timeless collection of a period gone but thankfully not forgotten.

Photographs © Duane Michals