RadioBDC Logo
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | RadioBDC: Celebrity Series Takeover Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

The Transparent City

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  November 23, 2008 11:28 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

The Transparent City #32
The Transparent City #32 by Michael Wolf

By Christopher Shea
Brainiac blog

The writer John Hockenberry has soured on the postmodern metropolis -- a view he airs, not unironically, in the November issue of Metropolis magazine. "From the ground, megacities have trouble conveying a distinctive skyline," he writes. "Shape and texture are best appreciated from the air. From the foreground, sheer density trumps all other qualities." And he has little good to say about the modern skyscraper-office, which he refers to as "stacks of boxes" and "factories for making to-do lists."

The occasion for this dourness is the publication of "The Transparent City," by the photographer Michael Wolf. Wolf spent a year as the artist-in-residence for U.S. Equities Realty, in Chicago. Wolf set up shop on various rooftops and captured the glass walls and canyons around him.

The Transparent City
From "The Transparent City" by Michael Wolf

In some of these pictures, indeed, scale overwhelms all else. But in others, you see form and function merged into something that approaches grandeur, the very goal of the modernists who built the template for contemporary Chicago. Where Hockenberry sees nothing but anti-human scale, the author of MoCo, a contemporary arts blog, sees, as I do, "a transparent and fluid thing of beauty."

The Transparent City
From "The Transparent City" by Michael Wolf

Yes, there is a touch of melancholy in the voyeuristic photographs that peer in to the people living and working in the skyscraper-behemoths -- everyone mostly dressed the same, dwarfed by their environment. (Just as there is melancholy in the paintings of Edward Hopper, whom Wolf cites as an inspiration.)

The Transparent City
From "The Transparent City" by Michael Wolf

But in part, we're just seeing where and how white collar Americans in urban centers spend their times these days, for better as well as worse. Cubicles and skyscrapers didn't spell the end of workplace creativity, for example, let alone office banter, friendship, or even romance -- and there's a rich metropolitan world to be discovered just beyond those massive, unornamented facades.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago is exhibiting works from "The Transparent City" through Jan. 31.

  • E-mail
  • E-mail this article

    Invalid E-mail address
    Invalid E-mail address

    Sending your article

    Your article has been sent.


Welcome to your community for New England's amateur photographers. Take pictures ... get published ... win money ... have a blast!
The Color Green
It's the color of hope, envy, regeneration, relaxation, and money -- as well as the theme of the October contest. Make it the focal point of your best photograph.
Upcoming events

Featured Photographer

Featured Photographer: Ben Rifkin
Life and wildlife in Madagascar
For years before I started college, I knew I wanted to spend a semester studying abroad, but I wasn't sure where. By my junior year at Brandeis, I made up my mind to travel somewhere off the beaten path, and, of course, Madagascar is pretty far off the beaten path for someone like me....
An essay about Rebirth Workshops
Now that it's been several months since I returned from a week-long Rebirth Workshop in Mississippi, I'm happy to look back and provide an overview of what we did that made it such an intense experience for me as a photographer....
Photography apps for your phone
Thinking of ditching your separate camera and moving to just using your phone for all your photos? What apps should you go for? Instagram made headlines recently after being bought by Facebook for $1 billion. What does it include, and what else is out there?...