Four Freedoms Park Photography

Art as a Means for Exploring, Documenting and Learning from History

While oftentimes underappreciated, art is perhaps a multi-layered, complex application of human creative expression. In many ways, art is a universal language; a way of self-expression; a tool through which we learn about history, document our present and dare to envision our future.

Roosevelt Island Gondola. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Roosevelt Island Gondola. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Sometimes we don’t even have to travel far to discover art and, with it, history as captured in timeless artwork.

Views of NYC and Roosevelt Island gondola from Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Views of NYC and Roosevelt Island gondola from Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.

A couple of summers ago, on one of my visits to the NY Historical Society, I had the chance to see Norman Rockwell’s work, in particular Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, and ponder upon their message, as interpreted and understood through the years, and most importantly, nowadays.

The Four Freedoms:

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Worship

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Fear

FDR's Four Freedoms. The Four Freedoms Park. Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Four Freedoms Park. Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.

This January I finally made it to Roosevelt Island, home of the Four Freedoms Park.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument on Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument on Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.

There’s a lot to explore on this skinny island placed in the middle of the East River, tracing the eastern Manhattan coastline:

  • the gondola trip over the river, in itself
  • the cat sanctuary (although, I did not get to see too many cats)
  • the smallpox hospital ruins
  • FDR Memorial and the Four Freedoms Park

…among others.

  • Ruins of Smallpox Hospital. Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.
  • Smallpox Hospital. Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.
  • Ruins of Smallpox Hospital. Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.

The experience of visiting Roosevelt Island brought me face to face with history, and in so many ways. Surrounding by so much history and by art capturing history, it is impossible not to feel humbled…and also inspired by FDR’s words.

UN Building as seen from Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.
The UN Building as seen from Roosevelt Island, NYC. Photo by Alina Oswald.

As for photography: as you can see from these images, the day was cloudy, overcast; the sky painted in shades of gray rather than blue. And yet, the grayness of the day added to the overall, somber mood. Just like in a black-and-white photographs, the grayness (the lack of bright, vivid colors) of that day helped me focus on what was right in front of my eyes–all that history told through art, its meaning and message.

Roosevelt Island Gondola. Photo by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Roosevelt Island, NYC – Gondola. Photo by Alina Oswald.

That said, I plan to visit again, and explore more of the island. For now, though, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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