Loneliness is New York’s leitmotif. This feeling is palpable everywhere in the city—a place filled with 8 million people, many of whom are immigrants and transplants. There are different shades of it: the loneliness of an Uber driver who fled Venezuela, leaving his family behind, who sighs with relief when I quickly switch to Spanish; the loneliness that emanates from the people I talk to on dating apps; the loneliness of the middle-aged Ukrainian woman at my local supermarket, who tells me in Russian that I remind her of her son, who she left behind in a war-torn country and who she hasn’t seen in two years. Finally, the loneliness of someone who doesn’t believe in a god, someone who is slowly starting to come to terms with the fundamental randomness and uncertainty in our world. All of these people exist on the margins of the fast-paced world that is New York.
I moved to New York from Europe in 2014 after having been on the road for over a decade—I’d lived in six different countries, changing location every year. I came to New York in order to pursue photography. During a three-month-long visit to the city a few years ago, a body of work was born that I felt I wanted to finish. People from all walks of life share the streets of Manhattan—this bizarre Tower of Babel is a true feast for a street photographer. And yet, it’s a constant struggle: one day, the city fascinates me. The next, I’ve had enough.
There are so many crowds in New York, and there are also so many lonely people. This is not only because there are many of us here who are newcomers without family or friends nearby; the technology that has slowly taken over our lives, separating us from one another, also plays a part.
Ironically, despite New York’s density, it is not hard to feel alone. So many people here are focused on money or their careers. It often feels like no one has any energy left for emotional conversation, for relationships. Although it isn’t difficult to find company, many of the interactions we have with each other are empty and meaningless. It’s easy to be lonely and anonymous in a city like this. It’s easy to get lost.