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Jonathan Castellino Photographs A City's Life

Photo:

Jonathan Castellino

Words:

Edd Norval

Photo:

Jonathan Castellino
March 16, 2018

Cities are living organisms, as receptive to stimulus and as adaptable to change as our own bodies. But like our bodies there are malevolent forces - decay, disruption, death, that affect the way we live our lives.

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Although our bodies aren't yet capable of living forever, unable to just renew and rejuvenate - to a large extent cities are. This means that some parts of the city get left behind. Although our capabilities in architecture and planning are growing, budgets aren't necessarily. Things deemed superfluous to government's are often simply left to rot.


With a view of the city as a living, breathing and dying entity, Canadian photographer Jonathan Castellino examines and explores the corners that have been left to collapse under the burden of stubborn and unsustainable development. Buildings that are decaying, discarded technology that has reached its shelf-life and anything else that has no redeemable contemporary value.

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The idea of inevitability attracts Castellino. From the moment things are built, they are already decaying, as he says, "we are building ruins, from the outset." That means ruin isn't a thing, a descriptor, as much as a place - it's the destination that every built object will eventually reach.


We associate many things with our contemporary monolithic megalopolises - traffic, queues, crime, loneliness, movement, but very rarely do we consider the silence that a city can offer its inhabitants, albeit a rare silence that must be tracked down, or 'hunted' as this photographer sees it.


Despite the architectural beauty of cities, they have many faces and a lot of them are ugly - offering little room for reflection, but rather provoke a snap reaction - one that makes us feel uneasy about the rest of the place. The rooftop is a favoured spot for Castellino to look at the city. It's a place where he is finally able to reflect on its complex nature. Surrounded by an invigorating silence, with a full view of the place.


In his 2016 series of composite images, 'interference.patterns' Castellino muses that "Cities are layered, with many converging landscapes. Somehow, we imagine a unified view of their structure. The fact that there are different, conflicting and yet overlapping cities within cities, as it were, is difficult to convey in any single image." His photographs build up layers just like the city does, layered narratives, layered destruction and the layers of hopes and ideas that are buried there.

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The city, in the hands of Castellino, is more than an aesthetic junction of thought and man-made structures - it's a series of feelings that affect those who wander its streets in a melange of ways. It's an emotional landscape as well as a physical one.


Besides being someone who is always learning and exploring - he also teaches. Having a role exploring the value and role of architectural photography at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts in Queenston, Ontario. His curriculum involves 'the aesthetics of decay'. A lot of time at the institution is actually spent outside, looking and participating. Their photographical output is transformative, it looks at change and in turn affects change within them - in perception, preconceptions and artistic possibilities.


Why does he do what he does? He explains that, "We live in a culture obsessed with living inside a screen. I hope that my images can serve to remind people how brilliant and exciting the world outside really is, and that the physical landscape has the ability to shape our interior lives." Castellino's work is a holistic exploration of self and city. It's about finding new ways of seeing old things and finding new places that help us reassess old values that we hold.


He has a rarely reflective and thought-through approach to his discipline. This makes it seem like there will be no bounds or no limits to what he can achieve, or what he is capable of. There will always be something new to be explored, as long as there is someone willing to do so.

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