Hundreds of buildings, thousands of windows, millions of people; and plenty of laundry. Wolf has an ability to make the architecture of megacities sing with his photography. Seeing beauty and humour where others might not, HEKKTA urges you to explore the works of Michael Wolf.
Wolf first stumbled upon the colossal metropolis of Hong Kong when he moved there to work as a photojournalist for a company. When he left the company, he began work on his own project, documenting the concrete jungle he saw around him over the course of 11 years.
From the vast, vertical mazes that dominate the skyline, to the parts of lesser grandeur, he creates a story within his photos.
Noticeably, there is a distinct lack of people in his photos, which allows the buildings to be the main character, highlighting the architecture as an entity of itself.
His photography not only emphasises the squeeze, but it highlights the beauty of the buildings. He has the ability of instilling manic paranoia mixed with awe through his clever shots of the superblocks
Giants of the sky, helping to house as many souls as can fit, but almost scarily daunting.
His ‘ground floor’ work however shows his ability to capture the character of the place and the people within it, without any persons in shot.
The shot below beautifully contrasts the previous to show the human side to the massive community.
Eerily quiet, the photos have an almost dystopian feel, like everyone has abandoned their home.
“As a photojournalist I was always aware of composition in my photographs, and one of the things I always liked doing was not letting the viewer be able to escape from the picture. So as soon as you have sky there, you look up and you can leave the picture in some form.”
“It’s the same with the architecture. If you have the sky and the horizon, you know approximately how big it is, and there’s no real illusion there. By cropping it like that, I’m not describing the building any more, I’m creating a metaphor.”
Four ducks waiting to be made into pancakes.
A flimsy, plastic chair watches over the behemoth community.
Michael also took himself and his camera to Paris, where he documented the patterns along the rooftops, showcasing a whole variety of chimneys and tiles.
Again, telling the story of the city through different eyes, but yet the character always shines through.
The roofs slot together almost by mistake, and Michael’s shots cleverly map the geometry as the houses fight for space.
However, his work capturing the romance and intrigue of the Paris streets at night through shadows is up there with his best.
Emulating the mystical Pink Panther, the noir style photos scream Paris, as the shadows draw black cracks along the Parisian buildings like an omen.
Capturing photos such as these, with little to no decent light to work with, shows off his credentials behind the lens and also shows off his creativity.
His humour can certainly be seen in his collection Tokyo Compression, documenting the frantic commute during rush hour in the Japanese capital.
Not a single smile in sight, the proximity of these photos emphasises the claustrophia oppressively, and you can’t help thinking how much you don’t want to be in their shoes!
The body heat of the packed tube condensing into sweat on the windows, as the poor communter gets a faceful of it.
The man below praying to arrive before he has a meltdown.
We’ve all been there.
A face which says all you need to say when it’s 500 degrees on a full train and nobody has given their seat up for you.
This gentleman gave Wolf a lovely token of gratitude for his fantastic new profile shot.
Sadly he recently passed away, leaving behind a collection of incredible photography.
“Michael’s work on life in cities was always driven by a profound concern for the people living in these environments and for the consequences of massive urbanisation on contemporary civilisation,” his family commented.
“This commitment and engagement remained central throughout his career, first as a photojournalist and then as an artist.”
“I try to put myself in their situation. I know of projects in Japan that other photographers have done, where they take pictures of salarymen at midnight taking the last train home, totally drunk out of their minds, lying unconscious on the train platform, and I think that’s terribly unfair.
“It doesn’t say anything, and it’s a form of voyeurism that I would be against. I wouldn’t do that.”
Wolf’s photos certainly do not fall short of telling the story of the place.