Because of publicity rights, the faces of the people in the Google images are blurred, which consequently seemed to symbolize the anonymity of the city. Through subtle distortion, not only the people but also the buildings are enveloped in a fantasy mood, as if seen in a dream. My New York, where the real world and virtual world coexist, is like the matrix, a simulated reality where one goes back and forth between dream and reality. In this sense, is the place I saw really New York?
Although it is a world made of data actually photographed by Google, it has no sense of reality. This is because everything has come to a standstill. The stillness makes us focus on details that are overlooked when it the city is busily moving and creates unfamiliar images. Moreover, the phantom-like people walking about with malformed faces makes us suddenly wonder who the master of the city is. The irony of the people on the giant billboards seeming more real than the ghostly people walking the streets seems to subtly take hold of the city. This vast city made up of such arrested images, the “Phantom city of New York,” which I explored and captured on my own, presents a New York that is both familiar and unfamiliar as it goes through the process of creating images within images.
By decreasing the sense of place, in my photos of New York it became possible to throw the hidden face of the city into relief. The city dwellers in the photos, who seem to have popped up out of nowhere, are unable to connect with others and are never really at home in the city. They are portraits of ourselves, lonely and disinterested in each other. They may bump shoulders as they pass on the same street, or perhaps stand together in the same crowd. But each person is alone and isolated from others. Whether it is me looking at New York from the city of Seoul or those people in the same place in New York, we are together in our loneliness.
Although I know the people in the photographs really exist, to me they are nothing more than figures in a simulated reality. As the boundary between reality and simulated reality grows fainter and time and space expand, individuals in real life become gradually more isolated. This moment that we believe to be reality may be a dream to someone else; if a third person is watching us that would make us the virtual people in the photographs. The digital world may be a binary system, but our lives are growing ever more obscure.