Since 2016, Greek visual artist Aristotle Roufanis has been creating super-high-definition images of urban landscapes that are an intimate look into the lives of city-dwellers and their loneliness. The large composite images of his ongoing Alone Together series are the result of dedicated observation, as he photographs the cities he visits from dusk till dawn: after setting up his equipment on a high-rise or hill, the artist proceeds to patiently capture the city below click-by-click, in a process that can take several hours.
A civil engineering graduate, Aristotle Roufanis has always been fascinated by architecture, and particularly the patterns and sheer scale of large cities. Interested in the many contrasts and the amount of information one can collect through reading an urban landscape, the artist has often turned his lens to urban architecture in the past. Alone Together combines several themes that have appeared in Aristotle Roufanis’s work so far but merges them in a very skillful and refined way.
Apart from it being a feat of technique and skill, the sheer size and extreme amount of detail seen in Roufanis’ images have a very particular emotional impact: they make the urban landscape clearly visible all across their surface, which is something we cannot experience when looking at a vast expanse with naked eye. This also makes the images lose their depth and become flat, like a veil that protects the tender humanness hidden behind it.
Composition and balance in these works are less about form and color and more about organisation of content: which windows are kept illuminated within the sea of dark anonymous apartment buildings, and what do they contain? A couch, a painting, a person behind a curtain: all these glimpses of an otherwise uneventful evening after work (or maybe the last excruciating minutes of a long sleepless night) are transformed into dramatic events full of emotional tension.
The starting point for this project was the artist’s own experience as an expat in London a few years ago. His initial observations of people tending to feel isolated in big cities led to further research into the phenomenon of urban loneliness in modern societies. This revealed that the issue is so widespread that it is often described as an epidemic. In the US alone, rates of loneliness have doubled in the last 50 years; according to a survey, nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
London, Paris, Hong Kong, Miami, Athens: for Aristotle Roufanis, urban habitats and the loneliness of city dwellers are surprisingly the same wherever you go. By isolating only a few illuminated windows in each photo, the artist seeks to raise awareness about the epidemic of loneliness in big cities and at the same time take a positive stance about it. In his own words: “The bigger the city, the lonelier we feel. It is important for people to understand that although lonely, they are not alone. Individuality does not equal to alienation.”
Text by Kiriakos Spirou
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