La lettre de la photographie

La lettre de la photographie, March 4, 2012

By  Jonas Cuénin



Martin Roemers




This is the first North American exhibition for the Dutch photographer, winner of the 2011 World Press Photo. With its roaming documentary style, Metropolis calls attention to the populations of the world’s overcrowded cities.


What better city than New York to exhibit a photographic essay on the citizens of these “megalopolises” where the population numbers in the millions. Martin Roemers decided to look beyond the urban West to Asian and Middle Eastern cities like Karachi, Cairo and Istanbul. Through these images, the viewer discovers that these bustling cities are also home to men.


It begins with those who walk the streets of Calcutta and Bombay, where it is said that the everyday street humor is similar to that which emerges only occasionally in New York: instinctive, generous and human, as if in reaction to the ruthlessness of the city. This is one of the most important aspects of the Dutch photographer’s series, which uses the image to reveal that humanity resists the challenges of urban life. It can be seen in the eyes of street vendors, travelers, passers-by and market regulars, the veritable lungs of these cities.


Rather than choose a close-up style to document their daily lives, Roemers inevitably opts for distance in his meticulous compositions, where movement effects created with long exposures are ubiquitous, creating a streaked sea of faces and objects. We catch a glimpse of the energy and vitality of human souls about which Roemers speaks, but also of an oppressive atmosphere, largely a result of the density of each photograph’s compositional elements.


The photographer starkly highlights modern phenomena to which humanity and its seven billion people are subjected, but by choosing this distant angle he forgoes showing their feelings from up close. We are now at the center of the evolution of documentary, where the photographer is no longer a close witness but as a sociologically informed observer. These are two less distant points of view that the images seem to signify.



Metropolis, Martin Roemers


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