Subverting the Urban Point of View

While working on his Site Specific series, Olivo Barbieri photographed more than forty of the world’s cities from a helicopter hovering in midair. The geographic scope of the project took him to every corner of the planet; his artistic ambition prompted him to employ an unprecedented range of photographic techniques in making his images. Temperamentally, Barbieri has never really been a documentary photographer, and he has never been convinced that straightforward images can fully convey the hallucinatory qualities that he finds in modern urban spaces. During the first five years of the series, he used a special tilt-shift lens that enabled him to drastically alter perspective and scale within his photographs. Later, he used digital postproduction techniques to modify the color balance, tonal relations, and even pixel structure of his images. If Site Specific provides an almost anthropological commentary on the human drive to create and inhabit densely layered urban environments, it is simultaneously a stylistic tour de force that takes photography’s visual language far beyond its customary boundaries.

Written by Christopher Phillips