Metropolitan Melancholia explores the complex push and pull of the modern city, and the weight of its textured histories. Alluring and repellent, cities intoxicate those they beckon.
We leave our traces on them – if only in a passing shadow – as they leave their marks on us. But what happens when reality ruptures romantic visions, or when loneliness takes root in the midst of the sprawl? Can new fantasies form under the influence of what’s already been, or are we bound only to a cycle of familiar patterns?
Photographing New York from 2019 to 2022, long-term partners in life, work and love – David van der Leeuw and Sarah van Rij – brought their own distinct expectations to this iconic cityscape: maybe the most visually-mediated of any global metropolis. Together and apart, they walked its streets and absorbed its contours, along and beyond paths trodden by the ceaseless waves of artists, writers and filmmakers before them. For both, the camera was a means to grasp at New York’s contradictions, submit to its spells and think through its oppressive confines.
Surreal and painterly, their abstract images envelop city-dwellers in architectural compositions of light and shadow; cinematic fragments converge with splintered sketches of the everyday. More uneasy back-and-forth than one-sided love letter, Metropolitan Melancholia unties two poetic dialogues with the city.