Thumbing by means of outdated images generally is a dependable method of evoking nostalgia. And these black-and-white Independence Day images, pulled from The New York Times’s archive, supply a potent dose.
We see vacation crowds, marches, amusement parks, parades. We see buddies and households at the seaside and of their backyards. We see communal pleasure. We see the Twin Towers, whose lofty peak competes with that of the sky-high fireworks. We see a pre-9/11 world the place low-level flybys close to Manhattan don’t set off citywide anxiousness.
But in the present day, within the grip of a pandemic, there’s one other dimension to the nostalgia that’s evoked whereas viewing these images.
It’s evident within the informal human contact, the shut quarters, the dearth of social distance.
You’ll discover it within the appearances of palms held in opposition to naked faces, the unconscious proximity of strangers, the enjoyment of seen smiles. You’ll discover it within the obvious freedom of motion. You’ll discover it within the relaxed posture of individuals who aren’t accustomed to — or excited by — maintaining their distance.
Patriotism and nostalgia are inextricably linked. Perhaps that’s what makes these images so compelling: the juxtaposition of archival expressions of American satisfaction with our up to date actuality — when, from a worldwide perspective, the idea of American exceptionalism is being challenged on multiple fronts.
But in a 12 months when Easter, Eid and Memorial Day have largely been celebrated without communal gatherings, Independence Day can be one other vacation that many of us spend away from our households and buddies — one other shared custom deferred to the longer term, and relegated, for now, to the previous.