Thursday, July 4, 2024

4th of July Suburban Ghost Towns

4th of July Suburban Ghost Towns

The year we discovered that the neighborhood streets in Troy would be deserted while everyone gathered at the river, Frear Park, Grandview Ave, and RPI to watch the fireworks from Troy, Green Island, and Albany, changed everything. Suddenly, we could ride our bikes down the middle of the street, through intersections, and down Hoosick Street without a car in sight. It felt like we had the world to ourselves, and it was addictive. What we were experiencing was kenopsia—the eerie atmosphere of a place usually bustling with people but now abandoned and quiet, like a school after hours, the downtown of a city on an early Sunday morning, or an empty subway platform—an emotional afterimage. This feeling sparked my love for photographing abandoned places. I still seek out that feeling and attempt to capture an image of it whenever I get the chance.

After that day, the 4th of July for our group of friends became more than just 3D monster movies on WPIX, broadcast from the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, fireflies, and tabletop video games. It became the one night a year when we could have the streets to ourselves, if only for a few minutes. We would roam freely, exhilarated by the rare stillness, the quiet echoing our laughter as we navigated the empty avenues. The city, momentarily ours, felt like a hidden world waiting to be explored. It is a reminder of the words of Albert Einstein: "To retain the sense of wonder in adulthood, we must never lose our childlike curiosity. The important thing is to never stop questioning."

That night, and every 4th of July continues to remind me of those childhood adventures and the friends I shared them with, and of the Collar City dressed up in the lights of fireworks and the blue haze that followed.

© 2024 John Bulmer Photography + Nor'easter Films
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