Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Risa Morales submits Michael Wolf's "Transparent City"

Following Libby's advice, I went to the library while waiting for the appropriate time to go home and buried myself in the photo books located there.  One of the photographers that I saw was Michael Wolf's book titled "Transparent City."  These images are meticulously taken, and focus on one aspect or another of incredibly HUGE buildings in Hong Kong (as well as some in Chicago, I believe).  They completely remove the horizon line, eliminating earth and sky so that the viewer is confronted with the near-overwhelming monumental feel of the buildings he shoots.  Throughout the book, Wolf pulls us back from the incredible encompassing images and presents the viewer with details that can be found throughout the images... private settings that can be seen through the high-rise windows of impersonal architecture.

The buildings shown have no perspective distortion and are shown as flat planes, most likely captured by a view camera.  The multitudinous small windows have a very inhuman, mechanical feel to them, and it is easy to feel lost in the sea of them...but the juxtaposition of the close-ups makes the viewer feel that sort of brain warping that comes from trying to gain mental perspective in such an environment. You have the opportunity to see people without their mental "masks" up, as they do not always realize they are being observed, and the personal touches throughout the architecturally imposed sameness helps to foster a sense of the city being a grand stage, each tiny box an entire world unto itself.

Upon initial glance, I was almost bored by these images.  pictures of high-rise buildings have been done before, and they all begin to look very similar, regardless of crispness of image.  What made me really stop and check out the book from the library for a closer inspection and read was the addition of the more intimate images.  One set without the other would be an incomplete piece, Wolf's concept requires both to be present to really give the viewer the intended perspective.  I have no complaint on craftsmanship here, they're impeccably printed, and even when he uses come extreme close-ups that are very pixellated, they only serve to emphasize the idea that humanity exists behind the anonymity.

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