“By photographing my subjects I want to capture the anonymity of the contemporary urban environment and the isolation of the people who live in it.”
Isolation and Anonymity in Urban Spaces
Aram Tanis was born in Seoul, but spent his formative years in The Netherlands, where he lived in a predominantly white neighborhood and attended schools that lacked diversity. As a person of Asian descent, he stood out among his parents, relatives, peers, and the media figures he observed, and unfortunately experienced discrimination due to his non-white appearance. During his adolescence, he actively sought individuals who shared his identity but was disappointed to find a dearth of role models. Consequently, he has always been acutely aware of his distinctiveness.
As a result of his experiences, Aram’s photographic work centers around themes of “Isolation” and “Anonymity.” By capturing urban landscapes, people, animals, and mundane objects, he aims to depict the impersonal nature of contemporary urban surroundings and the sense of detachment experienced by its inhabitants. In his photographic work created in Asia, he endeavors to establish an identity by portraying a sense of alienation. In his quest for a sense of belonging, he meticulously dissects the city, striving to comprehend every aspect of it. His photographs deliberately capture the disparity between beauty and crudeness, richness and poverty, and tradition and modernity. They are not only a reflection of his own indeterminacy, but also of the cities themselves.
While traveling to Asia has been essential to his work, Aram has shifted his focus to the United States since 2022. Recently, he completed his latest series, “Down Vegas,” which was produced in Las Vegas.
Aram Tanis’ Photography of Seoul’s Urban Landscape
Aram Tanis, a connoisseur of sprawling metropolises, revels in the prospect of wandering aimlessly and serendipitously encountering novel experiences, which stimulate his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The ephemeral nature of travel, punctuated by time constraints, also provides a conducive environment for his creative output, allowing him to generate fresh works within compressed timeframes. Despite the potential for tension, the frenetic energy of such circumstances serves as a potent source of motivation. Apart from traversing diverse locales, Aram derives inspiration from a range of sources, including literature, art exhibitions, documentaries, and keen observations of human behavior. His interests span a broad spectrum, and he meticulously records these fleeting moments with a compact camera, allowing him to capture visual reminders of his explorations.
Initially, Aram concentrated solely on capturing buildings in his photographic pursuits. However, over time, his scope expanded to include animals and eventually humans. His “Ji Hyun Song” series aimed to communicate visually the horizontal concentration of urban space in Seoul, showcasing multi-lane motorways, towering office and residential high-rises, and vast parking lots. By utilizing a bird’s eye perspective and emphasizing the formal grid of the architecture, his works conveyed a dynamic sense of distance. Aram’s lens expressed the intricate interplay between his fascination and sense of alienation from contemporary Seoul, concentrating on the superficial aspects. The enormity of the city, with its millions of inhabitants and distinct Asian architectural aesthetic, served as the primary subject and horizon of his approach. Despite his biographical connection to Seoul, his works emphasized the disconnection and loss of social bonds within urban spaces.
Urban Jungle: Aram’s Captivating Take on Asian Cities
Aram masterfully captures the essence of urban landscapes in his series ‘Urban Jungle’. He skillfully blends the worlds of animals and concrete jungle, presenting a striking contrast between the organic and the man-made. In doing so, he crafts a unique perspective on Asian cities, showcasing the vitality of wildlife amidst the backdrop of high-rise buildings, cluttered electrical wires, and litter-strewn sidewalks. Notably, Aram eschews human presence, deliberately emphasizing the emptiness of urban spaces, evoking a sense of eeriness and desolation.
The animals in Aram’s photographs command attention, from the serene tapir and majestic peacocks to the haunting image of a headless dog and the enigmatic white parrot. In the absence of human activity, these creatures take center stage, weaving a narrative that is both captivating and thought-provoking. Through his lens, Aram creates an evocative post-apocalyptic atmosphere, where the only survivors are the creatures that roam the concrete jungle.
In ‘Blowing Smoke and Seahorses’, Aram expands his artistic vision, incorporating human subjects into his works. This series delves into the vast cities of China, offering a window into daily urban life and the overlooked elements that surround it. The photographs showcase the realities of urban decay, with discarded mattresses, dying pot plants, and gas tanks serving as bleak reminders of a society’s inevitable decline.
Aram’s photographs stand in stark contrast to the polished and idealized images typically presented in commercial advertising. Instead, he embraces themes of solitude, misery, and loss, revealing a world that is both gritty and beautiful. Through his skilled manipulation of light and shadow, Aram creates a sense of depth and texture that immerses the viewer in the urban landscapes he portrays. His works are a testament to his remarkable talent, and they offer a fresh perspective on the complex relationship between humans, animals, and the spaces they share.
Down Vegas: Aram Tanis’ Exploration of the Hidden Corners of Sin City
Aram Tanis has recently completed a captivating series of works that delve into the subtle intricacies of Las Vegas. While many perceive this desert city to be a world of bright lights and sprawling casinos, Tanis opted to venture beyond the glittering glamour of The Strip to capture the city’s hidden corners that are rarely seen by tourists. His project, named ‘Down Vegas,’ is a testament to his unique artistic vision and ability to showcase the emptiness of the city’s suburbs through fleeting glimpses from an American muscle car.
Tanis’s black and white photographs portray the stark reality of the suburban neighborhoods that exist beyond the dazzling facade of the Strip. The modest condos, wire fences, and back alleys that often go unnoticed are brought to life by Tanis’s masterful photography. Despite the palm trees that still stand, these suburbs convey a sense of isolation and tranquility that contrast sharply with the bustling energy of the Strip. Tanis’s evocative imagery offers a glimpse into the hidden underbelly of Las Vegas, revealing the city’s backstage and providing a refreshing perspective on the world-renowned destination.
Inspired by his experiences in Las Vegas, Tanis plans to continue his exploration of other gambling cities, such as Atlantic City, Reno, and Macau. His goal is to create a cohesive body of work that captures the essence of these cities beyond their famous attractions. Tanis’s passion for creating art lies in his desire to forge connections with people and places. His work reflects both his personal story and the world at large, capturing the essence of the human experience through his unique perspective.
One of the key metaphors in Tanis’s series is the seahorse, a species under threat of extinction due to its use in traditional medicines as a potent aphrodisiac. The seahorse’s ability to blend into its surroundings and its symbolic representation of grace and faith is a reflection of the themes explored in Tanis’s work. Despite its adaptive ability, the seahorse remains a vulnerable species, much like the suburbs of Las Vegas that Tanis captured through his camera lens.
As Tanis continues to explore the world’s most iconic gambling cities, he will undoubtedly leave his mark on the art world, capturing the essence of each location with his unique artistic vision. For Tanis, creating art is not only a means of personal expression but also a way of forging connections with people and places. As he continues to travel the world, Tanis relishes the opportunity to share his perspective with others, offering a fresh and unique interpretation of the world around us.