The phrase “street photography” comes loaded with meaning, expectations and, in many ways, limitations. Whether it’s the decisive moment, the magic of light or the importance placed on happenstance, the genre has a rich and celebrated history—but also find itself a bit foreclosed in its capacity for experimentation.
That is why photographers like Michael Wolf are so important. For well over a decade, Wolf has made work in cities, streets and urban agglomerations all over the world. Whether in Hong Kong, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo or in digital worlds through the use of Google Street view, Wolf’s always fresh, widely varied work reminds us why the world’s streets continue to capture our attention.
In the words of writer and critic Marc Feustel, “[Wolf] establishes himself not only as a photographer of the urban structure, but of the unexpected ways in which people adapt to and reconfigure this rapidly changing environment. At a time when the urban experience is becoming increasingly homogenized, Wolf has chosen to celebrate the distinctiveness of each city that he photographs, while revealing the universal traits of contemporary city life.”
At this year’s Rencontres d’Arles, Wolf will showcase a retrospective of his impressive output since 2004. Below, we have made a selection from several of these series. We encourage you to visit the exhibition if you can; otherwise, seek out more information on the particular projects that interest you. We hope you find as much inspiration in Wolf’s streets as we have.
Editors’ note: Wolf’s retrospective “La Vie dans les Villes” will be shown at l’eglise des Frères Prêcheurs at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles. The show was produced in close collaboration with the Hague Museum of Photography.
More of Marc Feustel’s writings on photography (as well as adjacent projects in curation and editing) can be found on his website.