He had a vision of a great society as they lay on her cot making love. The society they were promised, where all peoples of the world were equals, where the land was plentiful and the good Earth was rich; The dream of the revolution towards a world where the people’s allegiance was to enlightenment first and then to the creation of marvelous things. Science would tell us more about the nature of our being, as the spirit would rise from the ashes of this… This cold world.
He kissed her on the back of the neck and thought back towards a night in his car, where the world seemed to collapse and she shattered. Tears. Paris was burning and it had finally sunk in. On this, what felt as though it could be the eve of war, he looked into her eyes between breathes and wondered what it might have been like to live and to make love in Paris, 1938, before the world collapsed and men marched towards battle. Before Paris burned.
In this moment their love felt innocent and pure. As pure as the love for all men within the society he had dreamed of. His world was not that world and he suspected it could never be. He thought of our monuments, not marble shrines but concrete highways, and he marveled. For all they were promised it seemed they received in different forms. He wondered now in the quiet of night if they could learn to love this world as they did each other.
Alien architecture punctures the once-pristine salt marshes of southern New York. At the very edge of what may be called ‘the City’ you will find the Bronx development towering over a quiet landscape. Built, a utopian city, upon old landfills and abandoned amusement parks, Co-Op city once represented the future; a future for the people who had for so long been pushed and pulled into submission by the aggressive capitalist stronghold that is New York City.
The idea was for folks living in the development to cooperatively own it, and thus work together to create a grand utopia of mutual respect and assistance. Because it was not held by hands outside its residents there was hope that the city could become a model for future communities, thousands working to live in a better world.
If you visit Co-Op city today, you may find it hardly discernable from its project counterparts elsewhere in New York. Chain businesses, fast food restaurants, national banks, and corporate advertisements run through the veins of its street like a cancer, drawing in its precious resources and sending them elsewhere. The dream of cooperative living appears now to be in great jeopardy.
Co-Op city finds itself situated in an awkward place. It was built where it was for the cheapness of the land, but land is always cheap for a reason. Surrounded on all sides by salt marsh the city is in a precarious position, for marshes flood and with rising seas such places find themselves at even greater risk than ever before.
I photographed on the outskirts of Co-Op city because I found myself interested in its physicality, in the ways in which the forms of the buildings tower over everything and interact with the salt marshes below. This is a place where the landscape rigidly dictated the form of human life, the shape of the streets and the size of its parks. Isolated from the subway system and constricted by traffic and vast highways running around it Co-Op city is like an island all in its own right; an island at odds with encroaching seas.
There is a elegance to these places, vast and beautiful, to their people, proud and hardworking, and to their purpose, alive with hope for the future. It would be a shame to see such a place disappear and so I photograph; with the smallest hope in my mind that a photograph might help to preserve it or, at the very least, my own time there. I would return to Co-Op City soon to take more photographs, to interact with its people and to appreciate its grand purpose, filled with hope for the future.