Faces of the City
January 19, 2012
The opening title sequence of Michelangelo Antonioni’s great 1961 film La Notte can be perhaps described as cold. The camera pans downward uninterrupted along the facade of the Pirelli Tower, reflecting the overcrowded streets of a modernizing Milan. A restricted number of edits reveal the disparity of scale between Gio Ponti’s tower and the surrounding Milanese skyline, the former’s great steel body excised and alienated from the lowly heights of the throbbing city below–a feeling underscored by the eerie theremin score playing in the background. The scene is a concise study of the director’s self-conscious stylization, which more often than not sacrifices narrative and character study for aesthetic abstraction.
Throughout his ’60s films and beyond, Antonioni consistently marginalizes modernist architecture and urban spaces, which he nearly always depicts as moody, barren, and, worst of all, intrusive. The same cannot be said for the work of photographer Jasper James, which, though similar in style to Antonioni’s films, is optimistic and, at times, playful. “City Silhouettes” is a series of photographs captures life in a new, and surely lasting, age of urbanism. Continue.
The majority of the world’s population now calls the city home–a fact that has been well documented, usually in the service of “green” ideologies, to advance the ecological benefits incurred by dense populations and share infrastructural systems. James’s portraits, however, present the urban tableau as a stage for human sentiment and interaction. Based out of Beijing, a city at the center of history’s largest urbanization, James’s lens sees the city anew, reveling in all its possibilities.
In each picture, a sole body (or two) stands) facing landscapes of undulating clusters of skyscrapers or the dense horizon of low-rise housing blocks. A glass pane separates the subject from the object of his/her gaze, a recurring scenario in many of Antonioni’s films and which Sofia Coppola borrowed, among other things, and recast as the ennui of the bored wife in Lost in Translation. The political motivations or the duplicitous natures of Antonioni’s unscrupulously liberal protagonists are absent in James’s photographs. Only the most base emotions–falling in love, discovery, despair–can be discerned from each of the picture’s content.
[via Feature Shoot]