A Recharged New York, Through Young Eyes

For a special project of The Times Magazine, 15 photographers ages 25 and under captured an electric, joyous, anxious city slowly becoming itself again.

By Sarah Bahr

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First dates are once again happening in coffee shops, not on computer screens. The East Village has resumed being the place on a Friday night to find a sweaty mass of bodies snaking out of bars into streets. The vaccination rate is rising.

And now, for young people, too, New York City is coming back to life.

For Sunday’s issue of The New York Times Magazine, which focuses on the city as it searches for its post-pandemic life, the publication enlisted 15 photographers ages 25 and under to capture the city’s reawakening. For 31 days in May, they fanned out across the five boroughs to capture the hope and excitement of a cultural rebirth, but also the anxiety and uncertainty of what might happen next.

“We wanted to tap into the youth culture in the city,” Kristen Geisler, lead photo editor on the project, said. “Teens and adolescents were so affected by the pandemic and will be over the next year.”

The project, which published online this week and will appear in print in this weekend’s issue, was overseen by Kathy Ryan, the magazine’s director of photography; Gail Bichler, creative director; and Blake Wilson, digital director.

The team began by reaching out to teachers and professors at high schools, colleges and photography schools across the city — among them the International Center for Photography, the New School and LaGuardia High School — and asking them to recommend their brightest photographers.

Then the photography team, which also included the photo editors Rory Walsh, David La Spina and Shannon Simon, dispatched the group with an open-ended instruction: Document the city’s reopening from their unique perspective.

They headed to Little Island’s grand opening, Mother’s Day brunch at the Rainbow Room and the first sermon at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village after it was damaged in a fire last year. They went to proms, protests and block parties. They even captured a woman meeting her great-grandchild for the first time. The photos don’t account for every single day in May, Ms. Geisler said — but almost, adding up to a collection brimming with energy.

“Just seeing the city reawakening and people enjoying life again was surprising,” she said. “It was like, ‘This place isn’t gone.’ ”

The team spent a month sifting through thousands of photos, then editing the more than 80 that appeared in the issue with Ms. Bichler; the digital art director, Kate LaRue; and the designer Claudia Rubin, who created the look and feel of the print issue. Maridelis Morales Rosado, 25, a Brooklyn-based photographer from Puerto Rico, took more than 10,000 photos alone.

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