Ponte City: Subotzky & Waterhouse

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse photo light panelsMikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse photo light panelsClick images to enlarge

As Wikipedia will tell you, Ponte City is a 54-story cylindrical building, the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa, set in the Hillbrow neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa and built in 1975. At the time it was an extremely desirable address due to its views. Starting in the late 80s and into the 90s gang activity in and around the building caused the crime rate to soar in the tower as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Ponte City became symbolic of the crime and urban decay taking over the area.

Enter Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse (finally). Together they collaborated (from 2008-2010) on a series of photographic tableaux in the form of contact sheets on lightboxes, depicting the life at Ponte City titled: Ponte City. The three panels are broken down by theme: doors, windows and TVs. Though I like all three, and the individual photos are all very striking, I find the Windows series particularly interesting and beautiful. Maybe in part because it looks most like a traditional building façade in its light box—which isn’t necessarily important, since the abstraction is interesting—or maybe it’s the openness and the light that I’m drawn to, but also, individually the photos are “windows” into the tenants’ lives, where we can see a bit of the apartment along with personal decor and artifacts.

From Mikhael Subotky’s website:
Ponte has always been a place of myth, illusion and aspiration. This is what we seek to evoke in these preparatory pages. Perhaps this task is best left to the images that we have found there – both in the abandoned flats, and in the marketing material and advertising that we have collected from 1976 and 2008. When these documents are seen next to the dystopian appearance of the building and its surroundings, one begins to project an image of this city during this time. It is a place of dust and dreams, befitting the land on which it sits, which has attracted millions of migrants since gold was discovered in the 1880s.

via Goodman Gallery

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