‘Cities that do not adapt to us will insist we adapt to them. For those who cannot or will not, there is only exile or alienation.’ ¹
Our cities are growing. Squares of silver and grey spread and join the old towns together until we can’t see green for concrete and the trees wither to patio size. Small buildings shoot upwards and tall trees shrink into tubs and wave their reflections through glass, or flash up as photographs onto our screens. We see green in luscious treetop pixels. Inches and angles are the architect’s battlegrounds and walls are built high with all-seeing eyes and electric gates. All hovered over from satellites in space, silently watching us and circling high in the vast unknown.
But we live here too. Alive. We are streams of consciousness pulsing through the streets to work and home, to work and home, going into shops alone to purchase goods, to drink and stare and try to stem the rushing blood of anxiety.
You’re looking gaunt.
A separate part of a lonely whole. Look up.
Look up at the sky and see the cameras hanging there. Steel arms to keep us safe, protecting assets and keeping us safe and so, and so, we safely breathe and eat much more than we should and surrender to the stream of images by softly clicking our phones, snapping ourselves in the corners of rooms wearing our worldly silver.
Uploading our lives.
Sharing faces and foods and ever-changing favourites. Digitalizing our babies.
The more we watch, the more we think and three quarters of UK people think ‘international terrorism’ is the biggest threat we face. ²
Terror is broadcast live, passed around and drank from, explored and sighed over. Exchanged with looks of horror. We are watching those contorted faces, watching other places, and seeing ourselves.
Looking at hoods and hatchets and static and looking at bombs in shopping centers where the camera shakes and then the screams come. Open your eyes to bombs in Christmas markets, bombs on holiday, and bombs after dinner in that restaurant.
Your breath is short and your heart is racing.
But we are 2000 times more likely to kill ourselves than to be killed by a terrorist. ³
Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of dying early by one quarter. 4
Being alone is killing us. We try and step out of the stream and it kills us. Alone and the ranks of the city close in. Death by aluminium, death by brick, death by steel and concrete and copper. Cold as marble, cold as glass.
Death by modern human.
These photographs by James A. Hudson were taken over a period of 15 years across several European cities including London, Paris and Oslo. They explore themes of urban alienation, fear of terrorism and surveillance.
Words by Alexia Wdowski
- Calvino. I. (1974) Invisible Cities. Translated by William Weaver, Vintage books
- YouGov poll of UK public’s global concerns – September 2014
- Global Terrorism Database / Statista
- Perspectives on Psychological Science – March 2015 10: 227-237