In the second part of my posts on Michael Wolf’s urban photography I’m taking a look at his The Transparent City series.
In 2006 when arriving in Chicago, Wolf took the elevated train into the city at dusk and was struck by the transparency of its architecture. After having worked in Asia for many years, Wolf saw Chicago as providing the opportunity to continue his study of city life in a radically different context. Shooting from public rooftops over the course of several months, Wolf adopted a similar visual approach to his architectural work in Hong Kong. However, the transparency and monumental size of Chicago’s buildings give a very different result: the city is far less dense than Hong Kong, thereby creating a greater sense of depth to the images, while the transparency of its glass skyscrapers causes the life within them to seep out.
The Transparent City surveys the density and magnitude of Chicago's skyline. Wolf's large-scale prints reveal the enormity of its skyscrapers at the same time they enable us to observe intimate and private goings on within individual apartments and offices. By cropping out traces of street and sky Wolf constructs an abstracted and endless world of windows, lights and reflections. He has created a group of photographs that remain familiar and at the same time fantastic.
From Aperture magazine:
“This is Wolf’s first body of work to address an American city. Whereas prior series have juxtaposed humanizing details within the surrounding geometry of the urban landscape, in The Transparent City, his details are fragments of life—digitally distorted and hyper-enlarged—snatched surreptitiously via telephoto lenses: Edward Hopper meets Blade Runner. The material resonates with all the formalism of the constructed, architectonic work for which Wolf is well-known, but also emphasizes the conceptual underpinnings of his ongoing engagement with the idea of how modern life unfolds within the framework of the ever-growing contemporary city.”