Chicago is a see-through city, as anyone with a telescope can tell you – yet people act (perhaps by necessity) as if their lives up high in office skyscrapers and urban condo towers were private. These borderline-creepy voyeuristic images of Chicago skyscrapers strongly suggest otherwise, revealing a transparency not always obvious to the casual observer (or occupant).
Asked by the Museum of Contemporary Photography to document the urban landscape of downtown Chicago, photographer Michael Wolf chose to get up-close and personal with the citizens of the city – capturing both the rich history of its Modernist architecture and vital pulse of these central and strongly vertical structures.
The series is aptly titled ‘Transparent City’ – focusing not on the big (and opaque) picture of a typical skyline photo but, instead, zooming in to see what is actually going on within each level. Each layer tells a different story – and each shot likewise captures the essence of living and working downtown in a different way, whether it be taken at an angle or photographed straight on from one side.
In some cases, an eerie similarity prevails from one floor to the next – but even in the most rigid and rigorously geometric of buildings there are exceptions, like a bright red ballroom between stuffy, white, florescent-lit office floors.
Zooming back out the abstract patterns emerge and the pretty and picturesque aspects of the city take over again – but now you know what dark and light variety truly exists when you zoom into the heart of these stately skyscrapers.
Via the Museum of Contemporary Photography:
“While it has been common for photographers to glorify Chicago’s distinctive architecture and environmental context, Wolf depicts the city more abstractly, focusing less on individual well-known structures and more on the contradictions and conflicts between architectural styles when visually flattened together in a photograph. His pictures look through the multiple layers of glass to reveal the social constructs of living and working in an urban environment, focusing specifically on voyeurism and the contemporary urban landscape in flux. Wolf explores the complex, sometimes blurred distinctions between private and public life in a city made transparent by his intense observation.”