“You need to have a trademark that makes you look different to be successful.”
At the age of 39 the German born, American raised photographer Michael Wolf came to the realization that the industry that had sustained him for the last 20 years was contract, contracting severely. At the turn of the century magazines that featured high end photography were being pushed to the brink and he was a photo-journalist. As he told Seconds 2 Real Street Photography “For me the alternative was to work on my own projects. But then the question is how to earn money with your own projects. The only way I found for myself is through the art world.”
But this raised the further question of what his own work would look like? As he explained to Conscientious’ Joerg Colberg “I had come to the realization that through working for magazine for so many years, I had internalized the magazine’s style of photography - the images had to be conceived as double pages, be easy to read, and usually visualize a cliche. I felt that my own way of seeing had been corrupted. Every time I looked through the viewfinder, I was framing the photos in the way. I had serious doubts if I would ever be able to free myself from this way of looking.”
A change of camera and a shift in subject emphasis created the required spark. As he has said “I switched camera format, instead of 35 mm, I used a 6x7 cm Makina Plaubel, later a 4x5 view camera. Instead of photographing the 7 million people in Hong Kong, I decided to create a portrait of the city with no people in it at all.” And so was born Wolf’s critically acclaimed study of Hong Kong, The Architecture of Density.
His depictions of urban life and the architecture of its landscape have become the hallmark of his work from his beloved Hong Kong to Tokyo, Chicago and most recently Paris which includes many of his controversial Google street view series.
Wolf’s current exhibition Paris Rooftops is on show at Hong Kong’s M97 Project Space until the 31st of May.