Defoe illustrates in great detail how the face of London drastically changed as a result of the plague. Once a cosmopolitan, buzzing city, he now describes it as “desolate”, stating that “London might well be all in tears”. This dark description of a once lively city reminded me of the impact that the pandemic had on New York City. Having experienced the initial phase of the pandemic in New York myself, this article and photo essay of the city resonated deeply.
As we scroll through the photos, we see a mere shell of the former metropolis, empty streets and eerily vacant public spaces. The photographer explains that as people “pass in the street, they keep a wary distance; if they acknowledge each other it is with terse, silent nods”. He also captures the same air of melancholy that Defoe describes in London through his pictures which highlight the concern and worry in his subjects’ faces. I drew this parallel between London and New York as despite being afflicted with different plagues and in different time periods, the impact of the contagion on both cities was jarringly similar, as both cities came to a grinding halt.
Finally, this piece in the New Yorker from April vividly describes the look and feel of New York City during the initial stages of the pandemic.