Aristotle Roufanis’s ‘Urban Extremes’ series is a long-term, ongoing photographic project which develops in separate chapters shot in the various cities he visits around the world. Reflecting the photographer’s fascination with the built environment, ‘Urban Extremes’ captures that aspect of urban architecture that is monumental and indeed pushing the limits of human artifice to its extremes. Aesthetically pleasing in their carefully rendered textures and strong orthogonal geometries, these series reveal in the most direct way Aristotle Roufanis’s keen eye for detail, as well as his unique talent of extracting emotion and inspiration out of the most unexpected places. Through his images, details that we walk past everyday—like the unassuming façade of an office building or the gap between two towers—acquire a new significance that goes beyond the colloquial and subtly reveals the emotional and psychological tension of our urban habitats.
Although these images appear to be focusing on the lifeless forms of buildings, Aristotle Roufanis is always conscious of human presence in urban environments: “For me, humans are everywhere in these photos, both in front and behind the camera. My images show places full of people, made by people, for people. After all, this was the original idea behind the series—to document how different societies create their own urban landscapes, especially when space is limited.” The first two chapters of the ‘Urban Extremes’ series were created in Tokyo and Hong Kong, a pair of cities that have come to be synonymous of 21st-century urbanity, futuristic fantasies and technological advancement. And although the scale and size of these two cities are very similar, they offer completely different experiences to their denizens and visitors, which is exactly what Aristotle Roufanis’s visual sensibility so eloquently reveals in his photos.
Particularly drawn to repetitive motifs and symmetrical patterns, the photographer constantly surprises us with the sheer variety and nuance he captures, may it be the intricate play of light on a building’s surface or the shadows of high-rises cast on the city itself. As the photographer explains, this deep understanding of texture comes from his background as a civil engineer: “For me it’s very important to render the texture of things, because texture is closely connected to the way a material reacts to light. You can’t predict how a photo will look like if you don’t understand the properties of each material. After all, what our eyes see is always reflected light.” As Aristotle Roufanis keeps travelling the world, new chapters will be added to the ‘Urban Extremes’ series, writing a visual story of how humans build their urban future, a city at a time.
Text by Kiriakos Spirou