Through his emotional photographs, Robert Polidori captures ephemeral moments in time

Relics of a past existence, leftover traces of human passage, densely populated neighbourhoods fraying at the seams: these poignant scenes seem to typify Robert Polidori’s haunting photographs. An architectural and environmental photographer, Polidori has taken his work one step beyond traditional norms, infusing startling immediacy into the expressive power of abandoned or neglected locales.

This fall, the California-based photographer is holding a solo show at Paul Kasmin Gallery in Manhattan, Robert Polidori: Ecophilia/Chronostasis, featuring the U.S. premiere of his “dendritic cities” images, a project that he started in 2007. The scientific term “dendritic” comes from the branching extensions of a cell structure, and Polidori uses it to describe cities that have rapidly and haphazardly developed as a result of industrialism – notably Amman, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro.

The Manhattan show includes three monumental photographs that Polidori shot in India, one of which details an expansive mural along a Mumbai street, dubbed 60 Feet Road. In a bold move, and rather than trying to shoot just one section of the road, Polidori depicted its entire length by compiling 22 separate photographs into one.

“Its execution came to demand labours more in line with mapping strategies than traditional photographic compositional framing,” Polidori explains. The result is a 40-foot masterpiece that allows viewers to appreciate every minute detail of the work.

Other highlights of Polidori’s New York show include photographs from his 2010 Lebanon project Hotel Petra. Here the artist shot a hotel in Downtown Beirut that was severely damaged in the 1970s and 1980s, during Lebanon’s Civil War, and then abandoned for 20 years. Once grand and glamorous, the crumbling structure is captured in a state of decay, as Polidori turns his artist’s gaze to the layers of paint that have flaked and faded away, transforming them into a poetic palette of colour and design.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 128-131.