“I’m Watching You” - Michael Wolf at Elipsis Gallery

By Cornucopia | February 21, 2011

(A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2010) Ever get the feeling you're being watched? Well, you are, at least if this exhibition at Elipsis Gallery is anything to go by. "I'm Watching You" is German-born photographer Wolf's take on technology, voyeurism and the boundaries of what is private and what is public. This show is actually comprised of work from two different series, "Street View" and "Tokyo Compression", the latter having received a prize from the World Press Photo Award. "Street View" is the product of the photographer's trawling of the internet - especially Google Street View - and editing, cropping and blowing up what he finds to create images which are at once normal and disturbing. The dappled light and leaping deer in A Series of Unfortunate Events (above) seems at first quite lyrical, but this feeling is rapidly undermined by the title, which suggests that the animal may be about to meet a sticky end. Likewise, pictures of couples kissing (see Paris Street View 016) seem rather romantic until the uncomfortable feeling of being a voyeur seeps in. Even the most innocuous image of a little girl jumping in the street, or a woman's shoe, seems imbued with some faint menace. Wolf has chosen to use images from New York and Paris in this series, a clever move which both references how photogenic these cities are and allows him to pay homage to those who have represented them before - Cartier-Bresson particularly springs to mind. "Tokyo Compression" is also something of an essay in snapping people without their knowledge - or rather, without their being able to do anything about it. As the title suggests, this series deals with the very urban sensation of being hemmed in on all sides. Here that feeling is quite literal, as the subjects are Tokyo commuters squashed like sardines into train carriages. Given their inability to do anything other than squeeze themselves into what little space there is, these subjects are presented at their most helpless and vulnerable. In spite of this, the pictures are often surprisingly graceful; in Tokyo Compression 05 (below), the man's face pressed into the glass echoes the curves of the window frame, while his eyes are unseen and his lips are set stoically.

(Tokyo Compression 05, 2010) In a sense, both of these series are about what we look like when we think no-one's watching - that is, when we're at our weakest, and most natural state. This exhibition is a reminder that, now more than ever, someone is always looking; but if you're lucky, it'll only be Michael Wolf. Tomtom Mah., Boğazkesen Cad., Hasan Efendi İş Hanı 45/3, Tophane-Beyoğlu. Entrance free. Until 30 March.

Posted in Photography Tagged elipsis gallery, michael wolf, world press photo
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