he idea to document this phenomenon of “City Quitters'' came to Karen Rosenkranz in 2013, when a photographer friend explained his radical decision to relocate from the London borough of Hackney to rural Sweden.
Rosenkranz found herself asking if it would be possible for him to say goodbye to city life for good and if he would be able to lead a creative post-urban existence. At the time, the idea seemed crazy; after all, Rosenkranz admits that, for her, “there is no better place to be than a bustling urban metropolis” where “the colourful mix of cultures creates a certain energy [...] [and] ideas spread quickly”. So how could any creative professional trade the electric hum and endless rhythm of a megacity like London, Los Angeles, Berlin, or Shanghai for a comparably pedestrian life in the countryside?
What could be the draw of rural life—not a holiday or a retreat, but the intentional adoption of a new mode of working, living, and creating—and what’s changing about our urban spaces that’s pushing people to make the shift off the grid? These are the questions that Rosenkranz seeks to answer in City Quitters.
The book is presented as “a global perspective on creative post-urban life, offering 22 stories from 12 countries and five continents, all based in places with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.”
One of the stories featured is that of Carla Perez-Gallardo and Hannah Black, the artists, chefs, and founders of Lil’ Deb’s Oasis, who made the move two hours north from New York City to Hudson, New York. According to a 2019 census, New York City has a population of about 8.4 million people, while Hudson has a population of 6,400. One of the reasons Rosenkranz highlights their unique story is for illustrating that relocating is not necessarily about reconnecting with nature.
Both Perez-Gallardo and Black were working in the New York restaurant circuit, while also trying to find a niche in the “narrow confines of the city’s art scene”. Soon, they found themselves in Hudson’s tight-knit community, and found it was the right place to pursue their creativity and merge their love for food and art. She writes that for Perez-Gallardo and Black, “the appeal was the creative freedom and the ability to thrive independently outside of larger systems on a smaller budget”. Although, that doesn’t mean that the pair don’t appreciate the allure of Hudson: as Black describes its natural beauty and vibrant, young community of dancers, filmmakers, musicians, and creative artists, it becomes easy to see the appeal of escaping the “crushing” rent and high professional stakes innate to New York City.
Rosenkranz’s City Quitters isn’t a book about interiors or design trends. Some of the creative pioneers that Rosenkranz visits are “fluid and nomadic, while others seek solitude, but all offer a new vision for ruralism beyond rustic pastimes and nostalgia”.