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Photographic 'Love Letters' to New York and London

Daniella Zalcman blends images of the two cities in a way that's both fantastical and haunting.

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Courtesy of Daniella Zalcman

When photographer Daniella Zalcman relocated from New York to London last fall, she wanted to create a personal record of the move. "In my last few weeks in New York I found myself growing increasingly nostalgic, and realized that I was photographing the city obsessively," she says. "Once I got to London and starting taking photos, it just clicked."

That "it" proved to be a series of blended images that Zalcman calls "New York + London." Zalcman took original shots in both cities with her iPhone 4S then mixed them into double exposures using an editing app. The hybrid results are sometimes fantastical, sometimes haunting, and always engaging.

Since starting the series, the 26-year-old Zalcman has run a (wildly) successful Kickstarter campaign to publish a print book of the images. Zalcman, who's worked as a freelance photographer for the Wall Street Journal, among other publications, has described the set as "a love letter" to the cities. Little surprise, then, that she hopes people walk away from the pictures with some sense of the beauty of both places.

"[I]t can be surprisingly difficult to pick out which details are New York and which are London," she tells Cities, "which I love."

You wrote on Kickstarter that you chose image pairs "based on negative space, color, and contrast." Was there something larger you were going for in each pairing — some greater impression of place?

Not an impression of place, per se — more an impression of home and memory. I don't know that I can articulate what images felt right, but in that way that you see flashes of a familiar face in a crowd, I kept seeing flashes of New York in London. These images are an attempt to literally recreate that sensation.

You have now lived in both cities. In your (brief) experience, what do you see as their similarities?

I think New York and London are more alike than they are different — which may be why it's easier for me to distinguish them by their dissimilarities. There's a clear difference in the architectural sensibilities of both cities, which is central to "New York + London." New York is very much a city of glass and steel and an ever-changing skyline, whereas London is rooted in architectural tradition and preservation. I love both philosophies and I think they play off of each other nicely.

I'll refrain from making generalizations about Londoners until I've lived there a little longer, but at the moment I'm convinced that New Yorkers are friendlier as strangers.

Is there a particular "New York + London" image that you see as best representing the series? That may be like picking a favorite child.

I think No. 52 [below] became my favorite the moment I made it. It combines a basic landscape of my street in Pimlico with an elevated shot of Grand Central Terminal that I took during one of my last Wall Street Journal assignments in NYC. There's something a little weird about it, and I love that.

You've continued the double exposure concept for your Echosight project. What is it about blending images that you find so intriguing?

Because composites are just as much about the editing as they are about the images themselves, I think the photographer can insert his or her personality even more forcefully into double exposures. "New York + London" was a solo project, and for the most part a pretty straight portrait of two cities. Echosight is a collaboration with a NYC-based friend, Danny Ghitis, and the images are surreal and sometimes sarcastic. We also play off of each other's images and ideas, which gives it a fun call-and-response feel.

You absolutely crushed your Kickstarter goal. Are you surprised at how popular this series has become?

I was pretty stunned. I believe in smartphone photography as a medium and as a legitimate step in the continuing modernization of photography, but sometimes it's hard for me to take myself seriously when I whip out my iPhone to take a picture. I'm also surprised at how much people who aren't familiar with either city seem to relate to the images. In that sense, maybe the muddled snippets of architecture and street life are universal: everyone can pick out something that feels like home.

All images courtesy of Daniella Zalcman. All rights reserved. See more work at her Flickr and Instagram pages.

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