‘I, Mannahatta’ consists of Wides’s seventeen-year exploration (1997-2014) of the perception of place in New York City. The series explores a transformative vision, expressing a conceptual and intuitive response to the urban landscape and social environment. This journey engendered by the camera documents Wides’s perception of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. Emerging out of Guiliani’s building boom, this historic moment encompasses the paused construction of the Ground Zero site, and the crushing weight of an LED stock ticker above a city plunged into recession. The moment culminates in the city’s luxurious, homogenizing transformation in the Bloomberg years. Wides’s project depicts human constructions and human figures interacting with social, economic, and natural topographical layers, imagining this landscape as a physical entity of complex and dynamic histories.
‘I, Mannahatta’ presents a meditation upon the constant spectacle of crowds and individuals who fill the streets of the city. The arterial flows of people who gather and create, build, tear down and perform their daily lives are seen through Wides’s selective focus. Experiencing a place is often a meditative immersion in the act of beholding. Looking deeply reveals inconsistencies and ambiguities in a place. Its history never appears crisply delineated; instead, it is a muddle of erasure and rewriting seen from the present moment. The camera lens calls the viewer to experience the perception of place—to soak up its light, its spaces, its histories, its potential—to join in this encounter in which perception is suddenly reimagined.
Through her lens, the architectural icons of the century feel small, like ruins drawn from collective memory. The dynamic tension Wides creates between icon and abstraction reveals that we live in a coded world. Corporate and media icons are brought into sharp focus, while individuals are left vague and spectral. Wides uses color to communicate the tone of our social relationships and the spectrum of consumer experience. Sensation, happening—people and place, energy, light and space expressed across the theatrum mundi are the vital core of our worlds.