Christian Popkes’s great passion for classical photography finds a perfect outlet in the urban landscapes of New York City. The Hamburg-based photographer and initiator of numerous photographic projects depicts Manhattan’s landmarks in an inspiring manner that astonishes the viewer. On the one hand, he takes a traditional approach to reintroducing us to familiar and frequently depicted places; on the other, his pictures convey something absolutely contemporary that clearly differentiates them from historical predecessors and frequently photographed motifs. Popkes at first consciously leads us into the past, only to unexpectedly bring us into the present day and let us see the city with fresh eyes.
The black-and-white photographs’ high contrast significantly amplifies their unusual and timeless mood and produces a powerful atmosphere. Structures, forms and Manhattan’s typical rectilinear textures stand out clearly. Extreme focal lengths enable the flat compositional combination of the Manhattan Bridge and the Empire State Building, whose architectural elements feel as if they have been digitally assembled and visually manipulated, even though they are not. Similarly, Popkes’s extreme aerial photographs of the Big Apple’s narrow street canyons reference New York’s urban and photographic history but possess such fine detail and sharpness that they are charged with a truly pulsating contemporaneity.
In this way, Christian Popkes manages to produce a moving portrait of New York that magnificently captures the beauty and distinctive character of this fascinating and unique place while presenting it to our senses in a new way. His pictures tell a tale of strength, resilience and endurance that has always been a part of New York but that we have long not seen in photographs of this kind.