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American Idyll


After three years of photographing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, I have only recently learned my way around. This is in part because I have a lousy sense of direction, but mostly because Frederick Law Olmstead’s genius intended it that way: the park he created is vast and endless, a world apart from the city in which it lives. It twists and turns on itself, whisking you into its interior, away from the urban big life teeming at the gates. I drift along its paths looking for pictures and suddenly find myself transported. What begins in the city quickly transforms into thick woods, a jungle gurgling with waterfalls—and here is the Amazon, the Black Forest, the bayou, the Ganges, a dream shared by Huck Finn with the Brothers Grimm. Wandering well after sunset, I come upon a clearing and a glittering skyline where just as suddenly the illusion of “elsewhere” recedes into the here and now. On my way home, I bring back rolls of film and the slight buzz of having been somewhere very far away.

And while the park is grand, the waves of people who come here make it infinite. The families, the groups of friends, the young lovers tucked out of sight, the lonely and solitary, the kids sprinkled throughout. Myriad ethnicities, cultures, religions, all here for an afternoon to set up a home without doors or locks, all sharing the same land and air for a sublime moment of escape. At first it seems too good to be true—an Olmstead-inspired fantasy of peaceful coexistence. But through the camera I hope to confirm the reality of Prospect Park, this idyllic, sacred place that so powerfully resonates with a greater New York and a greater America.

Irina Rozovsky, A03, a photographer whose work has been exhibited and published worldwide, lives in Brooklyn and teaches at the International Center of Photography. She earned a Tufts B.A. in International Letters and Visual Studies in French and Spanish, then an M.F.A. in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art. The images here are part of her growing collection “In Plain Air.”


Sitting down by the edge of a lake to take a load off has always looked the same. The only time-stamps I see are the clothes people wear and the cell phones by their sides—echoes of the current moment that exists outside this place. But inside is an agelessness.
The park isn’t postcard perfect—it is gritty and overused, with the trash of forgotten picnics scattered around. But at its core sits a tireless cycle, and each summer it is new again.
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