PPD Spotlight: Zoe Wetherall Finds Order in Complicated Urbanity

By David Schonauer   Tuesday April 4, 2017

Cities are a complicated and messy ecosystems, notes Zoe Wetherall.

They can be visually exhausting, too, she adds.

“More than half of us now live in urban areas, but cities can be stressful places,” writes the New York-based photographer. “Compared to those living in the country, city-dwellers suffer a higher risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, often brought on by the stress of crowding, invasion of personal space, hectic commutes, cramped living and working spaces, noise, pollution, and disorganization.”

In her series “Order,” Wetherall finds stunning clarity, form, and harmony amid urban chaos.

“When the clutter is sorted away, I believe that the mash-up of buildings hides views of peace. My work is to find them,” Wetherall notes in the artist’s statement for the series. “I like to shoot cities with the aim of creating abstract depictions of structures, highlighting form by focusing on detail and eliminating the surrounding environment. I represent these everyday structures in a way that defines them as an orderly series of lines and shapes, stripping them of their original meaning, as well as taking away any familiarity and preconceptions the viewer may have.”

“My way of seeing the world can turn a familiar building into something new, interesting, and even soothing,” she continues. “My aim is to help sort the clutter of cities and show beauty in modern architecture’s precision and repetition. By creating order from chaos, I hope to identify and support good urban design and architecture that help cities become better places for people.”

The images in the series were shot in Los Angeles, New York City, and Melbourne, Australia. “If I can, I shoot with a tilt-shit lens to correct perspective in these shots,” she says. “Otherwise I shoot with a 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens and correct perspective later to get everything straight and lined up neatly. Another thing I do during post production is close blinds on windows that have them open or half open, so all the windows are the same. I generally look for modern buildings with an unusual facade, paying attention to patterns and/or color. I have also shot some buildings that might generally be considered unremarkable, but when photographed up close, the simplicity can mean it becomes more interesting.”

Originally from Melbourne, Wetherall moved to New York City about a year ago to pursue her photography career. PPD met her recently at an ASMP portfolio review, where she showed her “Order” series as well as a series of detailed aerial photos shot from hot-air balloons in which she captured natural and man-made patterns on the ground (below).

Wetherall traces her interest in forms to her childhood — when, she notes, she wanted to become a bricklayer. At her website she recalls gazing at the pattern in a wall of bricks as a four-year-old and thinking, "I can see how that works. I could do that.”

She began taking pictures at age eight, when her father showed her how to use his SLR. “I've been interested since the very beginning in photographing landscape and what was around me," she says.


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