These immense colour photographs, pasted directly to the walls, are the result of a commissioned artwork, Pictet & Cie’s invitation to Beat Streuli to create an on-site installation. This internationally renowned Swiss artist wanders the streets of major cities around the world photographing passers-by, from New York and Cape Town to Zurich and Buenos Aires. He captures their attitudes almost without their knowing, hidden behind his telephoto lens.
People walking in the city don’t necessarily notice his presence. With each outing he recreates the face of cities, isolating individuals in the crowd and highlighting their expressions, rituals and movement of their bodies, whether they are busy or distracted. Each of the situations is both profoundly unique and completely quotidian, banal and familiar. Waiting at a traffic light, at busy crossroads, before a bus, near a car, tourists, teenagers, businesswomen, labourers or doctors. Their gestures, dancing to a music of colours, sketch out a multiethnic choreographic frieze along the wall.
A far cry from any sociological analysis, Streuli’s photographs portray individuals in all their singularity, the exact opposite of an advertising pose, whose stratagems are indeed reappropriated by the photographer and put to his own ends. His large-format prints don’t display frozen artificial smiles but rather natural attitudes. He avoids theatricality and the spectacular, preferring the proximity of spontaneous gestures and the atmosphere of the overall scene. According to a carefully studied cadence, Streuli suggests a story about these characters, a story that each viewer can extend as he or she sees fit. In the gaps between his images, he opens up an urban space that is ready to be inhabited by our imagination. Little by little we are imperceptibly caught up in the intrigues of these anonymous people. And they draw us into a face-off of fascinating proximity. For there’s a bit of us in them as well.