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Martin Roemers: Metropolis at Anastasia Photo

Art Scene

Martin Roemers: Metropolis at Anastasia Photo

With New York City’s population hovering at a mere 8.6 million people, it has yet to qualify for Martin Roemers’ documentary photo series, Metropolis. Begun in 2007, the series captures the unfolding of globalization in cities across the world with populations at 10 million inhabitants and above.

Martin Roemers, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Road and SS Maharaj Marg, Kamathipura, Mumbai, India, 2007.

From Dhaka, Bangladesh; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Beijing, China; to Cairo, Egypt; Mexico City; Mumbai, India; and many others, Roemers elegantly captures the hustle and bustle of 21st century life in an urban context. Shooting from elevated vantage points with long exposures, his work seems to focus on points of exchange where capitalism and the lives of workers and consumers intersect. Vibrant marketplaces full of color and activity reveal simple universal objects like flip flops, luggage and plastic buckets that offer a recognizable link between cultures all over the world.

Installation view, Anastasia Photo Photo: Anders Jones

Dilapidated concrete architecture suggests a crumbling or neglected infrastructure in many of the neighborhoods featured in the work. In one image of Dhaka, two-dozen tables full of what could be thousands of flips flops or slippers compete for buyers. Shot at evening twilight, the image’s top third features city dwellers sitting perched on the edge of an overpass waiting for sunset, oblivious to the flea market atmosphere below. Twinkling light bulbs illuminate the market, while rolled up blue tarps and red and pink hues against aging whitewashed structures compliment the imminent change in the sky.

Martin Roemers, New Market, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2011.

In another image, a group of Muslim men kneel for prayer outside what appears to be a gathering point for yellow taxis. They are gathered underneath an elevated highway. The picture plane features two crisscrossing curves at its center; one a slit through the two directions of traffic above the men, and another a cross street, round a bout or u-turn that passes right next to them. Non-descript pink buildings fall on the left and right sides of the image, complimenting three large-scale advertisements at the center of the frame with large swaths of pink and red in their designs. Overall, religion and commerce strike an interesting balance in the shot.

Martin Roemers, Broad Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria, 2015.

Like many of Roemers’ images shot at long exposure, the movement of people as their bodies drag across the image frame appears both ghostlike and alive with vitality. They pass through city centers, shop for merchandise, wait at transportation hubs or find nourishment from local food vendors. Saturated color is common throughout the photographs and highlights a globalized economy that trades in mass-produced, vibrantly colored plastic goods.

Martin Roemers, Zixia Road and Wangjiazuijiao Street, Huangpu, Shanghai, China, 2012.

Collectively, the images reveal a sense of interconnectivity both within and across the megacities featured in the work. The shared humanity found in the movement of people going about daily life together also unveils the uniqueness of individuals through subtle cultural details like prayer, dress, language and architecture; cues that subtly nod to long histories that have withstood the ebb and flow of societal change for centuries.

Martin Roemers: Metropolis at Anastasia Photo is on view through April 26, 2017.