From one photography collector to another: a venue for thoughtful discussion of vintage and contemporary photography via reviews of recent museum exhibitions, gallery shows, photography auctions, photo books, art fairs and other items of interest to photography collectors large and small.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Book: Peter Bialobrzeski, Lost in Transition
JTF (just the facts): Published in 2007 by HatjeCantz. Includes 53 color images, taken in 28 cities around the world, with an essay by Michael Glasmeier. (Cover image at right.)
Comments/Context: There is an old song by the Band called Twilight that has a chorus that goes something like this:
Don't send me no distant salutations
Or silly souvenirs from far away
Don't leave me alone in the twilight,
Cause twilight is the loneliest time of day
German photographer Peter Bialobrzeski's newest pictures are all taken at this fleeting moment in the day, when dusk is falling, the lights have just come on, and the cooler breeze gives you a shiver. His subjects are the futuristic mega-constructions that are multiplying all over the world, rapidly gobbling up the old and remaking the world in their own distinct science fiction aesthetic. His pictures have no people, no identifiers of place, no signs or landmarks to give away their locations; whether we are in AbuDhabi or Bremen, Jakarta or Zurich, it just doesn't seem to matter. When small towns are overrun by chain stores, we bemoan the "Starbucksification" of the neighborhood; Bialobrzeski's images remind us that this homogenization is happening on a much larger scale, as cities across the globe make the transition from old to new.
While most photographs of great buildings from the 1920s and 1930s had a romantic aura, these pictures seem to have a more complex set of emotions mixed together. Some of the darker images seem to be precursors to a Metropolis or Blade Runner style world, a neo-noir movie in the making. Others are more mundane, with grubby construction sites encroaching on older warehouses and worn out factories.
This is not to say that these are not beautiful images; indeed they are. One of my favorite pastimes with this book has been to flip through the images slowly, simply looking at the sublime palette of sky colors that Bialobrzeski has captured in this series: greys and soft blacks, mauves and deep purples, and a nuanced spectrum of blues, all carefully sequenced. Due to the stark fluorescent lights that inhabit nearly every locale, the images seem to radiate a silent and lonely brightness.
Overall, this is a book that provokes some complicated thinking: about architecture and cities, about the "modern world", and about how our collective society is evolving around us.
Collector's POV: There was an exhibition of Bialobrzeski's images from this series (printed 40x50) at the Laurence Miller Gallery last fall (here), which we somehow missed. His previous books, particularly Neon Tigers, have been well received.
For more on Bialobrzeski, see an interview (here) and another review of the book (here) at Conscientious.