“My tropical adventure was started by a friend, the photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who in 1988, enthused to me about Miami Beach, ‘You are made for each other!’” says Barry Lewis. “That summer I went with my family for a brief holiday, and fell in love with this exotic time warp. I met up with several photographers and by the end of the trip had a share in a fading Art Deco apartment on the beach.”
So began an ongoing love affair for Lewis, who ended up documenting South Beach for the next seven years, using Miami as a base for his US work and a venue for family winter escapes. It was, as he points out, a city on the up, just starting to revive after a couple of decades in the doldrums.
The overwhelming sense of being surrounded by people yet feeling alone among them is a well documented facet of city life. And even if you are among the 46 percent of the world’s population living in a rural environment, you’ll be familiar with the emblematic image of urban disconnection in which tower blocks loom over bustling streets filled with scurrying figures. But what happens when the day is over and each individual retreats into their home for a moment of calm after the storm? London-based photographer Aristotle Roufanis is fascinated by this experience of collective solitude. Trained as a civil engineer, he has an affinity for the urban structures that characterise major cities all over the world.
How did Ivar Wigan, a Perth-born, London-based photographer, infiltrate feared gangs and Atlanta strip clubs? “I lived in this motel and went to the club every night for eight or nine weeks,” he says of his series The Gods, recently exhibited at P-A-M, “until I knew all the dancers, all the security, I knew the management, the bar staff, I was the guy who was there every night.” The Gods focuses on the street culture of America’s southern cities; Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. The communities depicted — largely black, often deprived of resources and driven to alternative sources of income — represent a side of America that inspire fear and fascination in equal measure among many of its inhabitants. There is a charged dynamic implicit in a middle-class, European photographer documenting their lives for consumption in the cosy environs of a west London art gallery. Wigan distances himself from a grander, societal interpretation of his photos and stresses that his motives were relatively simple: “I was really looking to see what made this scene tick, …