Paradise Now

I was delighted to see that Peter Bialobrzeski has brought out a new body of work in book form entitled Paradise Now. I have mentioned PB on here a few times as I think his work is pretty sweet. You can see a number of the images here.
A lot of the work reminds me of Thomas Struth and to be honest they don't really bounce the ball and fill my hole compared to his other work, my favorite being Neon Tigers. Theres just too much 'clutter' for my liking and I have seen this technique of shooting trees and foliage using artificial light done to death, and that includes my own work.

Below in red is a review of the book from this weeks BJP and I have to agree with the last paragraph, so please read on.

Maybe it's because JG Ballard died last week but this book makes me think of science fiction. In front of the hypermodern cityscape, the jungle looms malevolently, threatening to overwhelm civilisation altogether. In fact, Peter Bialobrzeski's images document something rather more subtle, if no less dystopian - the effect of artificial light on urban growth.

'Paradise Now features fragments of nature - some staged, others untouched and unaffected by urban growth - located on the periphery of the artificially lit infrastructure of Asian metropolises,' he writes. 'Unlike daylight, the lights of the big city do not go in any particular direction. Artificial suns made of sodium lights, automobile headlights and illuminated skyscrapers form a kind of "vernacular light" that causes this urban "super greenery" to oscillate between hyperrealistic and surrealistic.'

The illuminated trees are backdropped by starless light-polluted skies, and the effect is eerily striking. But he isn't just photographing them because they look good. Inspired by Walker Evans' notion of history-in-the-making - 'I am interested in what any present time will look like as the past' - he's out to record early 21st century urban decadence. 'The photographs celebrate the lush growth as a sign of hope, yet they provoke the question of whether we can still responsibly account for this kind of illumination given the prognosticated climate catastrophe,' he writes. 'If we become sensible to our responsibility, then we will have to resort to technologies that put a halt to the waste - and these pictures will become historical. The photographs will remind us that decadence and stupidity almost always look quite pretty.'

It's paradise now but, as the title implies, it will shortly be Paradise Lost. And, as in John Milton's Biblical tale, the loss will be because of human fallibility. It's an interesting idea and it's, largely, impeccably executed. Bialobrzeski, who is a professor for photography at the University for the Arts, Bremen and shoots for Newsweek, Le Monde and Der Speigel amongst others, used a 4x5 Linhof camera for the project, shooting at dusk with exposures up to eight minutes long. Human beings are all but eradicated from the resulting images, leaving only the beautiful but corrupt cities they have built.

But I find it a little strange Bialobrzeski has opted create some of the images in postproduction, illustrating 'an idea of the world rather than a reality that can be replicated'. Because really, recording the contemporary landscape for posterity is one thing: recording the contemporary imaginative landscape is quite another, although equally valid in its own right. Which takes us neatly back to JG Ballard...

Diane Smyth

In print

Paradise Now by Peter Bialobrzeski is published by Hatje Cantz (ISBN: 978-3-7757-2332-9), priced £55.

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