Michael Wolf


From 17 November 2018 to 3 March 2019, the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen will be presenting a major exhibition by the German photographer Michael Wolf (*1954). The exhibition Michael Wolf: Life in Cities, which features twelve series of photographs and an enormous wall installation, shows works ranging from Wolf’s early days as a documentary photographer to his most recent creation Cheung Chau Sunrises (2018). Wolf’s works reflect living conditions in major cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Chicago, and Paris and address issues such as overpopulation, mass consumption, privacy, and voyeurism.


After studying under Otto Steinert, Wolf began his career as a photojournalist and worked for renowned magazines such as Geo. He moved to Hong Kong in 1994, where he worked for eight years as a staff photographer for the magazine Stern. In 2003 he changed professions and became an independent visual artist. Nonetheless, his work remains rooted in the tradition of socially engaged documentary photography. His core subject is the lives of people in the major, constantly changing urban centers of today’s world. The two-time World Press Photo Award winner has exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, among other venues, and is represented in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


The centerpiece of the exhibition is Wolf’s impressive wall installation The Real Toy Story (2004–2018), which will be shown in its largest manifestation to date at the Deichtorhallen. More than 30,000 cheap toys “Made in China” provide the framework for portrait photos of workers in Chinese toy factories. The shy and sometimes resigned faces of these individuals contrast starkly with the overwhelming number of brightly colored, mass-produced toys.


Michael Wolf’s study of the visual peculiarities of modern urban life began in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been his home since 1994, and became the main focus of his research and the subject of many of his series. In the series 100 × 100 (2006) he took portraits of one hundred residents of an apartment complex there, who live in spaces of just nine square meters. Wolf’s views of high-rise buildings in Architecture of Density (2003–2014), which show neither sky nor earth, resemble endless abstractions and underscore the beauty of Hong Kong’s monotonous, brutal architecture. His series Tokyo Compression, with passengers pressed against the windows of the crowded subway in Tokyo, offers an equally impressive look at the crowded conditions in a megacity.


The exhibition, which is curated by Wim van Sinderen, is a production of The Hague Museum of Photography and was first shown in summer 2017 during the photography festival Rencontres de La Photographie in Arles. It will be accompanied by the English-language publication Michael Wolf Works published by Peperoni Books, including essays by Marc Feustel, Jan-Philipp Sendker, and Wim van Sindern.

In cooperation with the Fotomuseum Den Haag.