New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 13.5 April 18 to 24, 2012

Urban Speed
Martin Roemers
Ed Barnas
Kolkata, India by Martin Roemers. Source:
Martin Roemers, "Kolkata, India" 2008

Cities are obviously the place to be: half of the world’s population of seven billion now live within urban spaces and the number of city dwellers continues to increase steadily. With this fact in mind, Martin Roemers has been documenting the world’s megacities (those with a population of several million) for a number of years. The cities he has chosen to display at Anastasia Photo are from the Third World, many of them quite old but now experiencing rapid growth. To capture the dynamism of these changing environments, he has adopted an old technique – time exposures. Using medium format film and taken from a vantage point high above the crowded streets and intersections, he then scans the images for archival pigment printing. The results are eleven lush color prints mounted in simple black frames, without the isolating effect of mats. (A portfolio of additional images is also available for viewing.)

In photography’s earliest days, time exposures were not an aesthetic choice, but necessitated by the limitations of the medium. Cityscapes – both domestic and exotic - often appeared strangely empty, only a few slow-moving wanderers recognizable among the subtly steaming shades of gray in the monochrome prints. In Roemers’ images, however, the color is vibrant and chaotic and the scenes are crowded. Abstract streams of vehicles and/or bodies flow sinuously around pockets of stasis, allowing the viewer to interpolate stories about these city dwellers–– that man standing so close to the train speeding past, all those vehicles stopped in the road surrounded by blurred bodies.

Mumbai, India by Martin Roemers. Source:
Martin Roemers, "Mumbai, India" 2007

The energy in these environments is tangible. Despite exotic details such as open-air markets, rickshaws, and camels, these are lively, modern urban spaces with a mass of motor transport (the stasis often dictated by traffic signals). In a number of these photos I see echoes of the urban images in Sebastiao Salgado’s monochromatic Migrations series. This element of time passing quickly in “Metropolis” differs markedly from Roemers’ other series in progress. While “Relics of the Cold War” is also in color, those images of the former Eastern bloc are sharply focused and still, as are his monochromatic series of portraits of WWII survivors (“The Eyes of War” and “The Never-Ending War”).

The prints on display are not oversized - most are 22 x 28 in., a quite manageable size for viewing or hanging on a typical home wall (only one is larger at 49 x 63 in.). Maybe it is due to the fact that Anastasia Photo focuses on documentary and photojournalistic photography, but I appreciate that they have resisted the urge to overpower the viewer with a multitude of oversized prints, a practice that has become prevalent in numerous art galleries.

Martin Roemers

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Wednesday, February 29 to
Saturday, April 14, 2012
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