By chance, or otherwise, I happened upon Wim Wenders' Urban Solitude photography exhibition in Rome, on the very last day it was open. I'm glad I was drawn there. The images reminded me of my old high school friend Mark Woods' photographs, which I saw soon before I left for Rome, as well as those of another Amherst high school graduate, Tim Davis, who was a Rome Prize fellow several years ago. Wenders images are of silent corners of cities, the odd-man-out building, the stencil peeking through stucco in the back of a building, the emptiness of a Safeway parking lot, the Hopper-like stillness of a small-town commercial strip.
But it was his words which struck me as much as the images: "Sometimes the absence of a thing makes you so much more aware of it." This reminded me of a line from Anthony Doerr's book about a year at the American Academy, where he says that perhaps the idea of snow falling through the oculus of the Pantheon -- a rare event -- is better just that way, and not realized.
And in his Act of Seeing, Wenders writes that "A city does not tell you a story, but it reveals history. Cities do that in different ways: some make their history visible, others rather hide it. They can open your eyes, like movies, or they can close them. They can leave you abused, or they can nourish your imagination."