While the last decade found Olivo Barbieri flying above cities from Venice to Shanghai for his “Site Specific” series, his first explorations of the shape and structure of cities were made at night, where, moth-like, he focused his attention on artificial light in all its garish or subtle glory. Ersatz Lights, recently published by Hatje Cantz, collects for the first time all of Barbieri’s night photos from the last 30 years—a show of the work was on view at Fotografia Europea last summer, and they will be shown this summer at Villa Manin, Passariano. Made in urban centers in China, America and around the world, as well as in more natural settings, the images explore the way we define our environment through light. In them, artificial light is a security device and a decorative tool, and so ubiquitous as to be invisible. Emphasizing the strangeness of the light in these places—the pink and purple glow of skies, the odd look of crumbling stone illuminated by harsh street lamps—these images suggest man-made light might be tawdry replacement for sunlight—bright but ultimately lifeless.
E-Project: Stephen Wilkes Blends Day Into Night (For PDN subscribers; Log in required)