Picturing urban resilience

My photographic work is made of storytelling. Moments balanced between emotions and thoughts. Too many emotions confusing thoughts. Too many thoughts diluting emotions. A subtle balance aiming to build a link. To bridge a gap. Aiming to a better understanding of urban resilience by non-expert citizens. Visual storytelling inviting to pedagogy. A dialogical pedagogy shifting the perspective. Helping to identify the changes. To question possible causes. To reconsider the standard and the positions on which a policy is based.

Twenty-five different definitions and none of them satisfactory. Why a twenty-sixth? (1). Where is the ambiguity coming from? Ultimately, there is no need to define the meaning of urban resilience if we do not agree on the prerequisites backing the concept: we cannot separate people of their urban living places as both belong to the same process, the urban way of life. Understanding such prerequisites is key as it enables to conceive how our contemporary thinking articulates urban citizens’ relations with their environment, with a one and unique objective: the wellbeing and well-living of people together. (2)(3). As important as the prerequisites and the objective, the philosophy framing the concept is crucial: the capability to “think resilient”, to realize that unpredictability is becoming the new norm, “in a changing world where surprise is likely”. (4)

Each work prioritizes the sociological, environmental, or urbanistic dimension of urban resilience. Reflecting the complexity of our urban lives, the three are intertwined and address the issues of vulnerability and related disasters. 

From 2018 to 2022, the technique used was based on the special properties of argentic photographic paper, with pictures visual appearance impacted over time according to their light exposure. The paper darkness development is technically complex as it depends on the brightness, the UV index, and the refraction angle of the light on the paper. Pictures were fully or partly treated with fixing or developer agents at given dilution and time. Others were left untreated. The way darkness develops in time should be seen as a visual metaphor questioning the issues related to the urban space resilience. This multi-parameter process recalls that hazards affecting an urban space are sometimes unpredictable. When the darkness level was appropriate, the daylight exposure was stopped, but the darkening process itself never terminates, recalling that the stability of an urban space, though said resilient, should never be taken for granted

Started in 2022, digital pictures of installations have complemented the first works emphasizing the needs of unconventional narratives with a theatrical representation of scientific-minded evidence.

From 2018 to 2021:

 “Urbanities” shows a series of diptychs illustrating different urban scenes with a narrative content related to the visual. (Print sizes 21 x 30 cm x 2 / 8 × 12 in x 2)

From 2022 onwards:

 “Hanging by a thread” displays a series of triptychs chosen for their approach of social vulnerability. (Print sizes from 73 x 30 cm / 29 x 12 in to 73 x 110 cm / 29 x 43 in)

 “Tipping points” explores our inability to consider major socio-ecological disruptions. (Print sizes 30 x 41 cm / 12 x 16 in)

“Hanging over disasters” displays a series of triptychs linking objective evidence to subjective depictions. (Print sizes 73 x 30 cm / 29 x 12 in)

All works are inkjet printed on argentic paper grade Ilford MGRC Deluxe Pearl.


(1)  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.11.011
(2) Human and social properties make cities resilient over time / Chelleri-2012
(3) “Cities are not only the places in which we live and work and play, but also a demonstration of our ultimate faith in the human project, and in each other”, concluding and last sentence of The Resilient City, LJ Vale & TJ Campanella, 2005
(4) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-020-01487-6