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Matinee: 'Michael Wolf: Peeping' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 April 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the twenty-seventh in our series of Saturday matinees today: Michael Wolf: Peeping.

This high-quality 15-minute production from the Foam Photography Museum from June 2012 captures Wolf in his Paris studio.

Wolf, whose artistic focus has been "life in mega cities", grew up in Canada, Europe and the United States. He studied at UC Berkeley and the Folkwang School with Otto Steinert in Essen, Germany. In 1994 he moved to Hong Kong where he worked for eight years as contract photographer for Stern magazine. Since 2001, he has focusedon his own projects, which he discusses in this film.

It begins with Wolf discussing his Google street view photography. We see him focusing his Mamiya with a Phase One back on his Mac monitor as he describes what makes a street view image into a Wolf image.

It's the cropping for one thing, which is quite severe. So much so, in fact, that the monitor's pixels are easily seen in the composition, becoming part of the composition.

He also discusses the evolution of his two-dimensional and three-dimensional architectural photography into a treatise on photography. What can you see up close? What can you see from a distance? It often depends on the subject, he observes.

The film is short but all of these projects are explored further in several books:

  • asoue (a Series Of Unfortunate Events) shows Google Street view technology capturing daily life "from tripped elderly women, to junkies sleeping of their highs to people dropping their groceries," 2010
  • Tokyo Compression Three includes portraits of people who are on their way in the Tokyo subway, constrained between glass, steel and fellow travelers, 2012
  • Architecture Of Density features photographs of high-rise apartment buildings in Hong Kong, 2013
  • Hong Kong Trilogy "carefully filters out the urban noise to focus on those things left behind whether intentionally or not," 2014

"Every form of photography is some form of peeping or voyeurism," he admits. It's his curiosity about people that makes him look through windows, around corners, into cars. But you have to be responsible, he adds, aware of when you are harming people by intruding.

He finds Tim Hetherington's photos of sleeping soldiers a good example. He wouldn't like to be photographed sleeping, he says. But the topic is so strong, it transcends the personal intrusion to show the humanity of these people usually portrayed only in their roles as soldiers.

Pull the shades and take a look at Michael Wolf's work. It's an eye opener.

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