Wounded Cities is acclaimed photographer Leo Rubinfien’s exploration of the “mental wound” that was left by the terror attacks in New York in 2001, and in cities around the world in the years before and after. One week before September 11th, Rubinfien, his wife and small children moved into a new apartment two blocks from the World Trade Center. They experienced the violence up close and fled through the smoke and dust with thousands of others. Though the physical scars of the attacks were obvious, he believed that the emotional effect was more profound, and a year later he began working in cities that had been hit in similar ways, including London, Nairobi, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Karachi and Tokyo. Intimate, deeply felt and beautifully crafted, the resulting portraits are some of the most powerful of recent years.
”...I found myself searching the faces on each street corner,” Rubinfien writes in the book Wounded Cities, “where, as people waited for the light to change, masked as at any other time, I would hope to discover indications of who they really were… to peel out of this stranger here or the next one over… some foretelling of what — if I extrapolated madly — was going to happen…” Like his earlier projects, Wounded Cities is notable for its humanism. In the faces we can see anxiety, fear, grief and also nobility. While Rubinfien’s photographs often work to reach to the other side of the camera, they also describe an unbridgeable gap; there is constant uncertainty about whether the person on the other side is like oneself, or nothing like oneself at all.
Robert Mann Gallery’s presentation of Wounded Cities coincides with exhibitions of the photographs (both black and white and color) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (October 18, 2008—February 17, 2009) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (January 31—April 26, 2009). The book of the same name, to be published by Steidl this fall, interweaves the pictures with a poignant memoir of the personal and political passions of the years since September 11th. Its unique design makes it one of the most original photography books ever published.
Wounded Cities is Leo Rubinfien’s third solo exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery. His earlier project A Map of the East appeared as a one-man exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has been called “one of the legendary works on Asia” (Donald Richie) and “a new kind of traveling picture poem” (Maria Morris Hambourg). Rubinfien’s work is in major public and private collections in America, Europe and Japan and has been exhibited around the world, while his essays on photographers of the 20th century are among the essential writings on photography. He was recently Guest Curator of Shomei Tomatsu’s 2004-7 retrospective, and co-author of the accompanying book, Skin of the Nation.