Martin Roemers at Chicago Forum

June 6th to 8th, the Chicago Forum on Global Cities takes place, where Dutch photographer Martin Roemers will be speaking about his work and experiences during his latest project MetropolisDutch water expert Henk Ovink, who recently published his book TOO BIG, will also speak at the conference. 

Kolkata, India. From the series Metropolis. Photo: Martin Roemers, Courtesy of Anastasia Photo, New York.

Metropolis

The concept for Metropolis, his recent and largest project to date, is based on a long-time fascination with megacities like Mumbai and New York. When he was in Mumbai, Martin Roemers literally asked himself how he could encapsulate in a single image the boundless, almost tangible energy, chaos, and tumult of a city of more than ten million people. And here again his analysis was effective: he focused on centers of business such as marketplaces and main roads, while working with a slightly elevated position and a slow shutter speed.

In this way, the endless stream of people, trains, cars, rickshaws, and cyclists is transformed into an image of a single, vast and indefinable source of energy that hurtles between static elements including houses, stalls, and merchandise.

The eighty photos, which Roemers has since made of megacities worldwide, have something overwhelming in their simplicity. In Metropolis, he shows you what really lurks behind those neutral, metropolitan statistics. However, his powerfully concentrated accumulation of human activity can be viewed in different ways. Does it constitute the dire consequences of global urbanization? Or simply the basics of a metropolitan economy?

The abstraction concealed in every good photo becomes palpable in the improbable balance between static and dynamic forces. And no matter how extreme, in Roemers’ photos that balance remains intact.

Karachi, Pakistan. From the series Metropolis. Photo: Martin Roemers, Courtesy of Anastasia Photo, New York.

Martin Roemers

Martin Roemers is a Dutch artist and photographer. His latest project is Metropolis, an exploration of the world’s megacities. Roemers’ work has been exhibited throughout Europe, America, Asia, and Australia. His work is also represented in prominent public, corporate, and private collections, among them the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Ford Foundation in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Martin Roemers understands like no other the art of translating global themes into human dimensions. During more than twenty years of photography, his successive subjects have clearly shown the extent to which he seeks visual concepts that justify his work’s increasing complexity.

Mumbai, India. From the series Metropolis. Photo: Martin Roemers, Courtesy of Anastasia Photo, New York.

Roemers preferred the black-and-white portrait for his photo projects on the long-term effects of warfare. This resulted in books and exhibitions such as KabulThe Never-Ending War, and The Eyes of War. By opting for an individual portrait, he and his lens effectively entered the mind’s eye of a soldier or war victim. In this way, he saw (and heard) the issues that they had been confronted with. Thus, he created a perfect match between the visual portrait and the spoken testimony: the most honest approach that a photographer can choose for his subject.

In his book Relics of the Cold War Roemers remained true to his theme of war. He now assumed the position of an archaeologist tracing the remains of the Cold War in former Eastern and Western Europe and then photographing them in situ. This generated a bizarre collection of images of underground tunnels, rusting tanks and abandoned nuclear missile launchers: the discarded baggage of a longstanding policy of mutual deterrence. These many years later, Roemers not only shows that it all still exists – albeit relentlessly battered by erosion, destruction, and neglect – in his book he also demonstrates how the active memory of this near-war persists to this day.

The Chicago Forum 
on Global Cities

‘Solving the world’s biggest challenges takes time. Start with three days in Chicago.’

The Chicago Forum on Global Cities, hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times, is a three-day international conference that raises provocative questions about the influence of global cities and how they can solve pressing global challenges. Participating thought leaders and decision makers create new connections and develop innovative solutions to advance in their own cities.

Global cities are on the front lines of the world’s most pressing challenges: they are targets of terrorism, vulnerable to natural disasters, fraught with inequality, and plagued by urban violence. They are also at the center of the most innovative solutions.

Through in-depth panels moderated by Financial Times journalists, intimate discussions, innovative flash talks, intensive workshops, and informal networking – Forum participants will garner new ideas and understanding to improve the efficacy of urban networks, management, and design.