I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.
- Tea at the Palaz of Hoon, Wallace Stevens
“A walk down 14th Street is more amazing than any masterpiece of art.” - Alan Kaprow
In the nine photographs that make up All the Worlds, Susan Wides turns her lens on New York’s passionate spectators, the modern versions of Baudelaire’s flaneurs, the strollers who he described in 1863 as seeking “(t)o be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world.”*
In an age when our impulses toward flanerie can be so easily gratified on the Internet–a ‘place’ where we can instantly be at home to feel anywhere at home–it’s almost archaic to stroll through a formal garden, go to a political demonstration, or visit the beach off-season. Wides shows us that, at the psychic root of the flaneur, there’s a longing for connectedness that clicking through the web cannot wholly satisfy: it’s a desire to participate in the continuum of our collective and personal histories, and through this, to align with something greater. The result is cathartic. By returning to our shared past, we can rediscover and reinvent a part of ourselves that’s essential to creating our shared futures. As we step out into the streets to visit and revisit our favorite places—dressed, as we like to dress, taking in the familiar air, aswirl in memory, purpose and happenstance—the city becomes the stage where the drama of these inner yearnings unfold.
All the Worlds is part of Wides’ ongoing I, Mannahatta project about New York, where she re-imagines the ever-shifting cultural and social landscape of the city and surrounding areas. In these photographs, the flaneur’s everyday activities– shopping, walking along the beach, sitting in a park—are superimposed on palimpsests of a ritualized past: It’s not just shopping, but Christmas shopping at Macy’s or hunting for relics in a flea market; the beach is populated by a wedding couple and by a Hasidic family in orthodox garb.
These events have the feeling of a “happening”, of a dramatic narrative unfolding. Wides’ perspective and technique of manipulating the focal plane emphasizes the theatrical, giving us a tilty and disorienting sense of floating into the action below from our front row balcony seats. Light, shape, people and structures collide to create a vibrant moment of discovery, with Wides’ moveable lens providing a focal spotlight that gives the viewer an entry point in the scene, a place for the drama to begin. It also creates a blur, frees us to unravel the visual mysteries within the picture, find our place in these worlds, and to complete the narrative arc. As viewers, we become flaneurs who, like with the subjects of the photograph, home in on our relationship with the city–creating a bond that’s personal, essential and, like the best of dramas, redemptive.
Wides’ solo exhibitions include The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers; The Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz and Urbi et Orbi Galerie, Paris. Group exhibitions include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The High Museum, Atlanta; and The Municipal Art Society, New York. Work by the artist is held in many public collections, including The International Center of Photography, New York; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Art Museum of Princeton University; La Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College; The Norton Museum of Art, FL and the Museum of The City of New York. Recent publications include “Horizontal New York,”(Rizzoli) by Marla Hamburg Kennedy and “New York in Color” (Abrams) by Robert Shamis. Wides regularly contributes to magazines, such as “Harpers” and “New York”.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Trans. Johnathan Mayne, NY: Phaidon, 1964.