New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Transparent City
Michael Wolf
Michael Wolf, Paris Street View #09, 2009

iseeyou is German photographer Michael Wolf’s response to the new reality of living in a 21st century city with expectations of privacy gone the way of the Clark Kent phone booth. His exhibition, divided into four portfolios, Street Views, Tokyo Compression, Architecture of Density, and Transparent City—each providing a different perspective on urban existence– is enough to make confirmed city dwellers head for the hills.

Street Views is easily the most controversial of the four since Wolfe adapts images from Google’s Street Views—photographs automatically generated by nine cameras mounted on a moving motor vehicle and prowling the streets of New York and Paris. Wolfe then hunts for images of city residents who may be caught on camera in embarrassing situations, then isolates, crops and greatly enlarges parts of them. One that stands out is Paris Street View #09, which is a pixilated shot of a helmeted scooter rider raising his middle finger at the camera(s).

Architecture of Density and Transparent City are large (some as big as 48 x 64 inches) prints of skyscrapers in Hong Kong and Chicago, with Wolfe’s photographs of the huge Hong Kong buildings showing the population density. Those in Chicago go a step further by offering voyeuristic peeks at some of the inhabitants.

 by unidentified photographer.
Michael Wolf, “Tokyo Compression”, 2010

What I found very relevant to New York metropolitan life was Wolfe’s Tokyo Compression series. Here, he captures the faces of Japanese commuters pressed against the windows of subway cars, most of them unable to protest or hide from Wolfe’s camera. These are all head shots framed by the subway window or door and you sense the subway riders’ helplessness. One rider manages to stick his hand up to block the photographer’s view.

“iseeyou” works. Overall, it’s an exhibition that demands close attention, rewarding those who do.

Michael Wolf

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Thursday, October 28 to
Friday, December 24, 2010
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