Robert Polidori’s atmospheric photographs of building—exteriors and interiors—altered by the passage of time and the people who have lived in them are investigations into the psychological implications of the human habitat. He has shot all over the world: decaying mansions in the formerly splendid metropolis of Havana, the colonial architecture of Goa and urban dwellings in China and Dubai among other countries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York commissioned him to photograph New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and exhibited those photographs in 2006.
Polidori’s career as a fine-art photographer began in the early 1980s when he gained permission to document the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. Since then, he has returned to the palace several times to take more pictures, and in each one, his conception of rooms as metaphors and vessels of memory is evident. His tonally rich and seductive photographs are the product of long hours waiting for the right light, careful contemplation of the camera angle and a keen sociological understanding of place. Polidori uses large-format sheet film, which he believes produces superior images to digital photography.
The triptych on display here was shot in Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro. As with many of Polidori’s works, it highlights the fact that most of the world’s growing urban population lives in self-constructed cities, often on squatted land.
Robert Polidori won the World Press Photo of the Year Award in 1998 and the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography in 1999 and 2000. He has published eleven books and his work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
Born in Montreal, 1951 | Lives and works in New York
Favela Rocinha #1, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2009, UV-cured ink on aluminum, 9.4 x 14.8 feet/2.9 x 4.5 meters, edition 1/2
© 2009 Robert Polidori
With thanks to Galerie Karsten Greve.