In this stunningly beautiful collection of images, master photographer Joel Meyerowitz invites the viewer to discover the hidden pockets of wilderness that still exist within the urban environs of New York City.
This compelling body of work is the result of a unique commission Meyerowitz received from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to document, interpret, and celebrate one of New York City’s greatest legacies: the nearly 9,000 acres of parks in the five boroughs that have been left or returned to their most natural state. The images in this book are drawn from the thousands that make up the HP Archive of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Meyerowitz is the first photographer to document New York City’s parks since the 1930s, when they were photographed as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WPA program. Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks (Aperture, October 2009) is a master’s vision of untamed nature within the concrete world of the city. The book is filled with surprises, including first looks at places such as the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in Central Park, which has not been open to the public in over seventy years.
Meyerowitz, who was born and raised in the Bronx in the 1940s and ’50s, is a self described urban Huckleberry Finn who refers to the Bronx River as his Mississippi. In creating this work, Meyerowitz has drawn upon his childhood memories of a New York with “green space—open and wild, alive with rabbits, migratory birds, snakes, frogs, and the occasional skunk… [That] gave me my first sense of the natural world, its temperament and its seasons, its unpredictability, and its mystery.” Through this rich archive of images of parks, shorelines, and forests, Meyerowitz transports the viewer into the heart of a lush wilderness, while contextualizing these corners of nature as an inextricable part of city life today. Legacy reveals the diverse range of landscapes in New York City, from a rocky outcropping in the Bronx that resembles parts of Maine, to a forest in Staten Island that could be in the Deep South. These compelling images inspire the viewer to imagine what New York City might have looked like 400 years ago, when the Dutch first arrived on these shores.
In terms of the environment, Legacy is a global call to action for conservation of natural resources and improving the living environments of cities. The book’s release falls during a time marked by attitudinal shifts towards land use and burgeoning popular interest in the importance of green spaces within the urban landscape.
To accompany these magnificent images, Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributes a foreword, and renowned author Phillip Lopate expands on his notion of the urban walk-poem—deurbanized. The book also contains a wealth of information about individual park features, from maps to historical chronologies and notes on the key species in each. This extraordinary 21st century archive of New York City parks will delight and inspire lovers of contemporary landscape photography and urban naturalists everywhere for years to come.
JOEL MEYEROWITZ (born in New York, 1938) is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 international exhibitions. He is a two-time Guggenheim fellow, a recipient of both NEA and NEH awards, as well as a recipient of the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis. He has published over fifteen books, including Cape Light (1978) and Aftermath: The World Trade Center Archive (2006). He lives in New York and is represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery.