April 7th, 2009

Big Day in Little Sydney

Posted in Asia Pacific, Public Space, Video by Christopher Szabla

Videographer Keith Loutit is spending a year filming Sydney in tilt-shift time-lapses, such as this one of the city’s Mardi Gras celebration, above. What does Loutit’s reduction of urban life to miniature tell us about the city he’s working in? And what does tilt-shift photography say about humanity and its built environments? Is it speaking to the individual’s subjection to a grander design? Or does a format that makes people, vehicles, and cities look like models mean to say something about the artificiality of society, about the constructed nature of culture?

Most of Loutit’s videos focus the city’s primary public spaces, its harbor and its beaches. Yet his Little Sydneysiders are no more subsumed to the grandiosity of nature than they are lost in the crowd of the urban carnival. Rather, their lives revolve around a harbor and ocean that have been more or less tamed and harnessed by the city around them – relatively harmless even in the most extreme circumstances, as this dramatic rescue video illustrates. Below is a montage of a busy day in Sydney Harbor, as crisscrossed by boats, ships, and ferries as any square in New York or London is by pedestrians and cars. Appearing like playspaces for tiny toys, Sydney’s watched and controlled public realms appear to be just what Loutit titles them: “bathtubs”.


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