New York (that is, Manhattan) is arguably the most recognizable city in the world. Everyone can pick out the Empire State or Chrysler Buildings, even if they can’t name them. Movie buffs will be familiar with the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the steps of the Met. And the Statue of Liberty? Fuggedaboutit.
The point is, New York–its skyscrapers, parks, yellow cabs–exists in the popular imagination as a prototypical metropolis that could exist anywhere. Like, say, the Grand Canyon. Artist and photographer Gus Petro crosses the two in Merge, his dreamy set of photo collages that fill the Canyon’s great gorge with the Manhattan skyline.
The results are stunning, just the kind of thing the Internet in 2013 lives for. Petro, who hails from Switzerland, writes that he got the idea when traveling across the U.S. in search of “something new…a feeling” He visited both sites, documenting each in a series of oblique photographs. “Empty” highlights the bald peaks, jagged terrain, and sheer cliffs that animate the peopleless landscape of the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, while “Dense” captures wide swaths of New York’s clustered towers. “The contrast between the two was so strong and overwhelming that I had to express it somehow,” he writes.
With “Merge,” he fuses the two contexts- one, a place where everyone wants to live, and another without the means to sustain life–into a fictional urbanscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a sci-fi film. Not everything lines up, and some edges need touching up, but the photos are meant for immediate impact, not nuanced readings.
Instead, according to Petro, they “aim to trigger an emotional response from the viewer,” before your head has time to register the impossibility of the scenario.