Michael Wolf at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

 Michael Wolf Transparent City (Chicago) | Dramatic muted large-format architectural photographs of Hong Kong Chicago and Paris, portraits from the Tokyo subway.


Select pieces from Michael Wolf's Transparent City series are included in the Museum of Contemporary Photography's current exhibition titled, What Does Democracy Look Like?.

In 2006, Michael Wolf arrived in Chicago to install his exhibition, The Real Toy Story, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. During his visit, he was enamored by the city’s architecture: a stark contrast to Hong Kong, the city in which he resided for a decade. The city proved radically different and the perfect opportunity to further his exploration of life in cities.

Wolf positioned himself atop public rooftops, photographing the city with the same visual language as seen in his series Architecture of Density. Each photograph is captured with tight and concise framing that accentuates both the city’s and skyscrapers’ monumental size. However, unexpectedly, the resulting images are vastly different than Architecture of Density. Chicago’s curtain walls gave Transparent City a sense of depth, allowing the viewer to gaze into the surrounding buildings. His role as a photographer had shifted to that of a voyeur—an undeniable homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 film, Rear Window.

In advance of the 2020 presidential election, What Does Democracy Look Like? asks the six guest curators to interrogate the Museum of Contemporary Photography's collection of 16,000 artworks, considering "what democracy means to them, and how photographic images record and shape our understanding of current and historical events."

Located in Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography is the world's leading college art museum—a part of Columbia College Chicago—whose mission is "to cultivate a deeper understanding of the artistic, cultural and political roles of photography in our world today."


Michael Wolf (1954-2019) was an internationally renowned photographer, known for his impressive large format images of dense architectural landscapes in cities like Paris, Chicago and Hong Kong.

Wolf began his interest in photography when studying at UC Berkeley and the Folkwang School with Otto Steinert in Essen, Germany. He later moved to Hong Kong in 1994 to begin his artistic career as a contract photographer for Stern Magazine. In 2001, Wolf began focusing on his own projects, drawing his focus to the tradition of socially concerned photography, while also engaging with the radical transformation of photography of recent years. From this unique perspective, he produced a body of work concerned with the complex reality of contemporary city life in a way that defies categorization.

Michael Wolf’s work has been exhibited in numerous locations including the Venice Biennale for Architecture; Aperture Gallery, New York; Museum Centre Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland; Museum for Work in Hamburg, Germany; Hong Kong Shenzhen Biennial; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. His work is held in many permanent collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum Folkwang, Essen; German Museum for Architecture, Frankfurt. In 2017, Wolf had his first retrospective, Michael Wolf – Life In Cities, which traveled to France, Italy and Germany, and recently an image from his influential Architecture Of Density series was selected as the cover image of Civilization, The Way We Live Now, written by esteemed curators Bill Ewing and Holly Roussell.


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