Suspended Cities (Portraits from the underground)

“The guard is down and the mask is off, even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors).   

People’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.”

Walker Evans

 

Suspended cities (Portraits form the underground) is a photography long term project became a photobook edited by Crowdbook in 2015. Portraits, 35mm colour slides, from 12 different underground networks worldwide, (Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, Oslo, Napoli, New York, Mexico DF, Santiago de Chile, Tunisia, Delhi, Tokyo). Twelve that become one, represented by presence/absence, by suspension, by waiting.      

This work is reflected in and transcends the images shot by Walker Evans in the New York subways in the 40’s. It doesn’t make reference to any specific place but to distant and different cities which appear here as if closed in one single space. The faces, which express the suspension and the naked rest of the passengers that use this means of transport every day, become metaphors as much of human essence as its modern dimension. Like many “flaneur” the people transit, linger, wait and leave. Behind the reality of constant movement is the veil of constant suspension.

Buy Suspended cities photobook on sale by Crowdbooks.

400 copies limited edition

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“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

“Arrivando a ogni nuova città il viaggiatore ritrova un suo passato che non sapeva più d’avere: l’estraneità di ciò che non sei più t’aspetta al varco nei luoghi estranei e non posseduti.”
Italo Calvino, Le città invisibili

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Preface  by Linda Lombardo      

Cities suspended in the space and time of contemporaneity. Alienated cities in which the masses fragment in solitude. (In)visible cities populated by presences lost somewhere…. In the world, in others, in themselves. Trains that leading people from one place to another, from one role to another in their lives; passages upon passages in which the public and private come together, fragments of lives in movement.

The underground becomes the modern limbo in which man, tired of his own struggle to exist, sinks into the dimension that Heidegger calls the “nobody in which every Being (in his work, Dasein) has abandoned itself in the indifference of its togetherness”.

In this moment, during this state of existential abandon and suspension, man is spied on and surprised by the photographer who, as a restless flâneur, moves with alert senses in the pressure-oppression of the bodies and faces, through the unknown and silent solitude that casually brush our life and that, stolen by a photograph, force us to observe them and reflect on ourselves. Looks of ordinary expressive power, absorbed, absent, distracted, disoriented, lost, transverse; dialoguing or self-referential, at the same time disoriented and disorienting, disturbing to such a degree as to arouse in us ambiguous feelings of fascination and resistance. From the One emerges the multiple, by superimposition and flaking, by fragmentation and development of situations, through the concatenation of the images.

The two levels flatten out on one another, the two dimensions generate each other: the metropolis, in its complexity and nontransparent immensity, multiplies itself in twelve cities, different in their phantasmagoria, but overlapping and replaceable; the individual is altered and disintegrates himself in the swarming crowd of individuals returning to the One, thus standardizing himself.

From individual men and individual women comes the birth of the “subway crowd” which as Benjamin wrote, “arouses feelings of anxiety, disgust and fear in those who first looked it in the face”; the mass of humanity where we feel confused, in which we perceive ourselves duplicated and repeatable, in which we see and recognize ourselves stranger and estranged… in which I found myself, identical to the others, lost, suspended.

That moment in which movement stops and the image gets perfect focus.

The river of oblivion  by Fernando Marcos Ibañez      

Those who love analogic or photochemical photography -and Martino loves it- use the term “latent image”; with this term, they refer to the infinitesimal trace that the light leaves, when caressing the microscopic grain of silver contained in the film, which, once developed, will form the visible image. This latent image will remain concealed, hidden, suspended in time until something or somebody reveals it and makes it visible or, maybe, it will be forgotten for ever if no one does. The silver mark continues to exist, remaining in a never ending hibernation and it will never become a visible image, a real emotion.

Martino’s travellers pass through the arteries of the city that pulsate and beat, suspended in a numbness that they all have in common, that of their lives, that of life itself. They seem immersed in the spring of oblivion, in the Lethe river, waiting to drink from its waters in order to return to their lives, or to different lives and forget what they have experienced in the underworld.

Travellers of any city, a bright one, a dark one; travellers who remain sleepy, latent, hidden and forgotten until somebody or something make them visible, thus avoiding the deathly embrace of the unlived.