"New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual," E.B. White wrote in Here Is New York. He added, parenthetically, "if he wants it, and almost everybody wants or needs it." And so here are New Yorkers, no longer with a choice, pulled back from participation and forced into extended isolation as the city hits pause for a pandemic.

We've spent many years trying to capture this electrified, perpetually bustling city in a state you never see it: empty and calm. Just check out our pre-dawn series, which captured a New York without New Yorkers during that one early morning magic hour when no one ever seems to be out. Or our empty NYC homages, documenting a quieter New York during the holidays. Of course, these photos were only striking because the city is rarely found so empty.

Over the past couple of weeks, we've sent out photographers to document the rapidly changing streetscape of New York City as it slowly began to shut itself down—through fear, through choice and eventually through government mandate in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. (These photos were all taken prior to PAUSE going into effect, and the streets were already mostly empty.)

The empty streets and once-crowded spaces feel different now, because they are always empty now, at least if you're in tourist areas like Midtown. Times Square is practically as private as your own apartment. But while it's not currently being complemented by the chaos, we can love it for a different reason.

"The city makes up for its hazards and deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin," White wrote in the same essay, and that is "the sense of belonging to something unique... mighty and unparalleled." This is still true, and that energy is not on pause, and we can love these empty streets because they mean New Yorkers are doing the right thing, and we can still feel that sense of belonging, albeit alone, together, behind closed doors from which we'll eventually re-emerge... and at that time, we'll possibly find a kinder city out there, which we can rediscover and celebrate once more, as we rebuild.

White ends his essay with a nod to the city's resiliency, reflecting on an old battered willow tree in Manhattan. "In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays... I think: ‘This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.’ If it were to go, all would go..."

In some of his more personal remarks during recent briefings, Governor Andrew Cuomo has similarly sought to emphasize New Yorkers' collective resiliency. Specifically, he said, "let's find our better selves in [overcoming this problem], let New York lead the way in finding their better selves, and demonstrating their better selves, that's the New York destiny."

(NB: Do not Google what happened to White's willow tree; not the point!)