The city of New York is synonymous with a diverse range of unique characteristics. Whether its sprawling gridsystem of bustling sidewalks, towering skyscrapers, or abundant cultural diversity, its distinctive identity is evident throughout. Gessner’s images portray a very different view of the gargantuan metropolis—devoid of people, the images are eerily still; silent renditions of a city so often attributed to that which ‘never sleeps.’ This alarming stillness is apparent throughout—in a shuttered storefront on the Upper West Side, an empty Central Park, or a Manhattan construction site absent of its workers.
Although originally photographed in 2018, when viewed today—in light of the global health and economic crisis—the images reflect the gradual desertion of public spaces. We asked how it feels for the images to take on this new, secondary narrative, to which Gessner explains, “It feels surreal. It was never my intention to show empty cities. Rather, in my photographs, I focus on urban spaces and try to do this by concentrating on the objects that surround us.” Although the premise has remained the same, thenarrative of the images has changed completely in recent weeks. “The photographs now serve as a projection of current events,” Gessner says. The images provide a unique opportunity to look back and reconsider our understanding of cities. What advice would Gessner give to his younger self, in light of these turbulent times? “Given the current situation, I would tell my former self to be happy, to be healthy, and to have the opportunity to travel and enjoy a certain freedom,” he says. “Nevertheless, one should always be aware when looking back that the extent of our happiness is mostly measured by the present.”