Alone Together is an ongoing photographic project by Aristotle Roufanis, for which the London-based photographer takes photos of large metropoles in a way that only tiny, individual apartment lights are visible. Hardly recognisable in the dark, some of the world’s most famous metropoles such as London, Paris, Miami and Athens are transformed into sprawling canvases of anonymity, where countless people have decided to make their home but hardly connect to each other. The project takes this phenomenon of social alienation in urban centres as a starting point, and adds a positive, optimistic twist to it.
“The bigger the city, the lonelier we feel”, comments Aristotle Roufanis, who recently moved to London from another bustling urban centre, namely his hometown of Athens, Greece. “In a big city, we are very efficient in covering all our consumerist needs, but we forget our need for companionship. It is important for people to understand that although lonely, they are not alone. Individuality does not equal to alienation.” For the artist, the individual lights shining in the city at night symbolise persons stranded in the dark void of a detached world. By taking photos of cities at dusk and dawn, Aristotle Roufanis points out where life is in the big city, since in the absence of light pollution, only the places where people live are illuminated. Even in photos where recognisable landmarks can be seen, like in the case of Paris, the photographer literally shifts the spotlight from the public to the private, which in turn brings attention to the distance between the isolated lights seen in the dark.
To make each little light visible within the vast urban jungle, Aristotle Roufanis has deployed a technique of super high-resolution photography, which is then complemented by meticulous digital editing that can take up to one month for each photo. The images for the Alone Together series, when presented in an exhibition context, are shown in extremely high-resolution prints that are at least 160 cm and up to 5 metres wide, in order to convey as much detail as possible. This enables the viewer to explore different areas of the image, and perhaps identify with particular lights or even people seen in the photos: the resolution of the images is so high, that tiny figures can sometimes be seen standing in the windows, perhaps contemplating the city outside or doing everyday things in their home.
A civil engineering graduate, Aristotle Roufanis has always been fascinated by architecture, and particularly the patterns and sheer scale of large cities. Interested in the many contrasts and the amount of information one can collect through reading an urban landscape, the artist has often turned his lens to urban architecture in the past. Alone Together combines several themes that have appeared in Aristotle Roufanis’s work so far, but merges them in a very skilful and refined way. Imagine the artist perched atop a hill or high-rise building at dawn waiting patiently for the city lights to go out in order to take a series of quick, precious clicks; it is as if he’s eavesdropping on our lives with his camera. What he gives back in return is the awareness that we are not as alone as we think, and that, in a sea of dark night, the nearest bright spot is much closer than we think.
Text by Kiriakos Spirou