Jordi Huisman

© Jordi Huisman

From the backs of residential buildings in old cities, one can see how people influence their surroundings. If a building block is designed at once, everything is mostly neatly aligned. In older cities a much more fragmented, spontaneous kind of architecture formed. This is in contrast with the facades on the fronts of buildings, which are clearly designed for appearance. 

The Rear Window series focuses on the backs of buildings in European capitals. It shows how someone for example decided to put a large satellite dish on his balcony, where the next door neighbor uses the balcony as a storage space. A small tree once planted in the court yard grew to be a massive obstacle. The series also has a voyeuristic aspect: through detailed exposures small details in the house of the residents become visible. Details that aren’t meant to be visible.

By photographing the views in different capitals, national differences and global chaos are captured.

— Jordi Huisman, Amsterdam, Netherlands

© Jordi Huisman

Tommaso Fiscaletti

© Tommaso Fiscaletti

The merry-go-round is a human element that generates color, noise and movement, producing a total contrast with the peacefulness of the surrounding woods. Things get really attractive when dark, silence and absence bring to zero these two worlds of separation. After 7 p.m the recreational finds itself in the natural, and vice-versa; the two things eclipse themselves in the only possible moment of the day. Walking around the park during the day, looking for peace and silence, you get inevitably disturbed by acoustic and color pollution, people yelling. These images tell us about the moment when these two elements, “the disturbing object” and the surrounding environment, interact without problems.

Mute is probably the word that better summarizes this work, it reminds of “mutation” but at the same time is a word that belongs to consumer technology, televisions, radio, etc. It’s used to have silence.

— Tommaso Fiscaletti, Milan, Italy

© Tommaso Fiscaletti

Jean-Philippe Gauvrit

© Jean-Philippe Gauvrit

Most of my projects are related to China, watching its economic, social and urban development, trying to understand this country and its people with my western eyes, tracking the promises of the future in the perpetual move of the country and its cities.

Pudong is the modern economic and residential district of Shanghai, located at the Eastern side of the Huangpu River. A few decades ago, it used to be a vast farming land, surrounded by water, whose recent modern development was decided and initiated by Deng Xiaoping at the end of the Cultural Revolution period, to become a flagship of a new prosperity era.

Beside the modern and spectacular landmarks of Luijiazi, the Financial District, like the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jinmao Tower, or the World Financial Center, offices, modern and high-rise buildings have gradually replaced the old housings, farms and industrial estates, dismantled or pushed away to the periphery of the city.

The concept of this documentary project is to follow-up a few selected avenues, which are offering a variety of landscapes, to illustrate the modern conception of the city promoted by the Chinese authorities, and watch places still under evolution and full of potentialities.

I started with Pudong Nan Lu and Pudong Da Dao avenues, which are progressing in parallel to the Huangpu River, and are running across a variety of places and patterns. I am currently working on others avenues at the south and at the east of the District. Pudong Avenues is mirroring another project I am currently developing in Shanghai, in black and white, in the District of Minhang, and I am also working in several second-tier cities of China.

To describe my photography, I would simply say “Documentary Photography.” I have a deep interest in places, spaces, and territories, in one word, in landscapes, urban landscapes. I believe that showing where people live, work, and interact can teach us as much about the inhabitants as showing them. Improbable and ugly spaces, buildings, highways, bridges, factories, train stations and railroads, how can we explain that these places seem to run their own life, growth, decay or agony, in an apparent total independence from their designers or users?

I feel comfortable walking along these places, as I am also interested in visual emptiness, and in visual banality. Sometimes I am trying to capture some essence from nothing… Maybe am I simply documenting absurdity?

— Jean-Philippe Gauvrit, Shanghai, China

© Jean-Philippe Gauvrit

Panos Lambrou

© Panos Lambrou

When I go about my errands every Saturday morning I notice a number of vacant commercial buildings, which were occupied by a variety of businesses that have closed as the result of the economic downturn and have remained empty anywhere from six months to the present. The odd thing is they have been maintained as if they were still occupied.

I keep thinking about all the people that used to work there and have lost their jobs, the merchants who have lost their revenue and profits, the building owners who have lost rents and maybe are now unable to pay mortgages to the banks and the linked effect this small sample has to our overall economic troubles.

I started photographing the empty buildings in November of 2009, and titled the project Ghosts of the Economy.

— Panos Lambrou, West Orange, New Jersey, USA

© Panos Lambrou

Gianluca Gamberini

© Gianluca Gamberini

Tokyo-Ga 東京雅 (elegance/order in Tokyo) is a series about the interstices that divide and connect each building in the Japanese capital. I was inspire by the Japanese expressions for space and nothingness: Ma. Ma is the “in-between” space, an idea of the interstice between nothing and everything, between nothingness and that which is. It represents the distance necessary for two bodies to operate in space. It symbolizes the two matching qualities of union and harmony.

Following this concept I created a series of urban portraits based on dyads juxtaposing opposite and complementary principles in neighbor pairs. In Tokyo, the roads are made up of houses that are very close together but do not touch. They are separated by a gap that acts as air space and anti-earthquake expansion joint. These strangely-designed party walls give rise to a host of obscure interstices used for such purposes as ventilation, air conditioning or for housing cables. And yet the gap between each building links the often very different personalities and backgrounds of the invisible occupants who live there at such surprisingly close quarters.

This distancing informs, without revealing them, two spheres of Japanese society: honne, which represents a person’s privacy, their real feelings, and tatemae, which literally means “façade,” the mask of public behavior and social obligations.

I investigated people’s spontaneous occupation of the doorstep, which lies between public space and the façade.

By using a view camera I have attempted to get beyond the ‘façade’ and catch something of that intimacy – to see the honne that lies behind the tatemae.

— Gianluca Gamberini, Paris, France

© Gianluca Gamberini

Tom Ridout

© Tom Ridout

The development of the Blandscape series started as a reaction to the rapid loss of farmland as a result of commercial development. The existing rural landscape was obliterated and in its place large formless buildings were constructed. A token of nature was offered in the small buffer strips at the bases of the buildings. Plants appear here in many cases as icons that signal the conceptual importance of nature while at the same time relegating nature to an insignificant gesture, verifying our need to dominate it. Ironically it is the disregard for scope and scale in the built landscape that creates such striking and banal images. Single plants take on strong figurative meaning through their isolation of form and color. The complete lack of human architectural scale combined with strict formal landscape principles elevates the visual impact of the scene.

— Tom Ridout, Acton, Ontario, Canada

© Tom Ridout

Ben Marcin

© Ben Marcin

One of the architectural quirks of certain cities on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. is the solo row house. Standing alone, in some of the worst neighborhoods, these nineteenth century structures were once attached to similar row houses that made up entire city blocks. Time and major demographic changes have resulted in the decay and demolition of many such blocks of row houses. Occasionally, one house is spared — literally cut off from its neighbors and left to the elements with whatever time it has left.

My interest in these solitary buildings is not only in their ghostly beauty but in their odd placement in the urban landscape. Often three stories high, they were clearly not designed to stand alone like this. Many details that might not be noticed in a homogenous row of twenty attached row houses become apparent when everything else has been torn down. And then there’s the lingering question of why a single row house was allowed to remain upright. Still retaining traces of its former glory, the last house standing is often still occupied.

— Ben Marcin, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

© Ben Marcin