Written review by
Director at GEO magazine
I read your brief explanation about the nature of your project attentively. “Big city lie” is, in theory, a fantastic idea: how big cities have managed to isolate individuals from their natural environment, because little by little the city imposes itself upon them, alienating them and destroying them. Great! A good topic for a photography project. But complex at the same time, very complex. I confess that your idea managed to arouse my curiosity: so I asked myself how it would work out.
However, I have to say that this expectation you had managed to create within me, started to decrease little by little as I carefully watched the material you presented in your series. I will not assess the quality of the photography in itself – right now I think that is secondary, I will mention it later, rather I will focus on what I consider the most important issue: how you develop the topic. You have a good idea, you have the means, you have the questions and the illusion…And yet, I lack the answers. The set in general lacks the necessary element of strength, the push it needs so that these pictures say something and mean something.
Documentary photography, social or testimonial, whatever you want to call it, seeks to reflect the conditions and the means by which the subject evolves. Your goal may vary, but usually it’s essentially of social character, about a report or about highlighting a situation which we want to change or transform.
So that we understand each other, documentary photography aims to awaken society’s conscience, to mobilize them in a certain direction, to raise awareness about a particular topic in question. I am sure that you knew this, and that you were sure you had it internalized when you started this project. So let’s see: in your case, the environment to be reflected is life in big cities, and the pressure that it puts on people; the condition to report is, on the other hand, the alienation that this creates amongst individuals. But your pictures do not stir up these feelings inside me.
There are some images that seem to want to venture into this field (for example the one with the boy sat down next to the railroad tracks, and perhaps the one with the woman at the window, although her attitude does not portray this, and it isn’t the most appropriate chosen environment either), but they do not manage to completely achieve it. I do not know whether the guys who are walking alongside the fence are looking for the ball that they lost while they were playing with it, or whether really it’s about some human beings who are excluded by their environment.
I am inclined to think the former rather than the latter. Something similar happens with the man passing in front of the glass buildings. I understand what you want to portray (we have all resorted to that at some point), but you have not managed to achieve it (maybe because of the framing, maybe because of the composition).
As for photographic quality it has to be said that the light is quite poor; the image processing practically non-existent; the framework can clearly be improved and the poses are too confusing (in one case someone even seems to be peeing). It is all too distant, too subtle. If you take the individual, the person, as an important part of the syntax of an image, you cannot and should not forget the most obvious and communicative part that it has: its face. And in order to capture it YOU HAVE TO GET CLOSE!!!
Similarly, I sense an excessive overuse of the wall as an insurmountable barrier, as an element that separates one world from another (it appears in almost all of your images). In theory it is a good narrative device, but if you overuse it, it loses all its meaning, simply because of the repetitiveness. I like the photograph of the man in the concrete wall. Here I actually could manage to sense for myself how overwhelming the city is, the weight of the cement over me, the choking environment. Better lighting, trying other framing methods and a bit of post-processing would make it much more powerful. Remember that you have managed to concentrate on a brilliant and complex topic, that the idea you want to capture is clear as well as how you need to get there. That is much more than many photographers can say. Work more seriously with the images, dedicate more time to them, find better scenarios, and you will get the results you want.