Edgar Martins @ Wapping Project


The Wapping Project is a unique restaurant and gallery converted from a hydraulic power station. Much of the old power machinery and equipment is still on display to show off its proud heritage and serves as the perfect space for the staging of Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins’ series of photographs entitled This Is Not A House.

The New York Times originally commissioned the photographs to reflect the subprime mortgage crisis in the US in 2007. Over two months, Martins photographed the abandoned houses of 16 states. Later Martins took the controversial decision to digitally enhance his images, yet although this has raised many questions, in my eyes it enhances the impact of the modern ruins. Many of the buildings are shown behind hauntingly dark backgrounds, given them an almost holographic effect. Buildings to shops and banks are also displayed as being rid of all doors and windows, possibly to mark their lack of purpose in a town that has been completely and utterly deserted. Others have been edited so that the backgrounds look as though they have been painted.

The bare brick walls and dim lighting of the Wapping Project add to the emptiness that these images represent. We were the only ones in the gallery, and the lack of other people adds to the ambiance, as though you were visiting the baron neighborhoods yourself. There is a speaker playing the sounds of water dripping and trains going past, but not sign of actual life, adding to the sinister nature of the neglected houses.

This show gives a startling look at a very recent event in our history. It causes you to pause for thought; the bare walls and the sounds flooded through the room forces you to think about the desolate towns left untouched by human life. While the photography is stunning, when you think about it, the subject matter really isn’t all that beautiful. This unique staging of uninhabited communities is not to be missed.

Edgar Martins – This Is Not A House is on show at the Wapping Project until 4 March 2011 and will be touring around the UK until 2013

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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