Review: Solastalgia

Photozine, Mar Wan, 56 pgs,, $25

Toronto-based photographer Mar Wan captures the damper that the COVID Era threw on city life and subculture. This darkest and most uncertain time is in these 56 pages of richly coloured photos. Street preachers, doom prophets, the masked and unmasked. Kids burning like hell to dance and cops breaking up the party. All in a city where the sun is out but no one’s sure if it’s safe to play.

Mar Wan’s eye is on it all: on the street, on the dancefloor, on the publicly posted social distancing signs. The camera collects the people and the clothes that they’re in; ensembles chosen for strangers by whom we were desperate to be seen again. It had been too long since real human eyes saw us and Mar Wan’s camera is very much a real human eye. It casts about the city, seeking whom it may devour, seeing if it can make some of us — some of you — immortal in time. Beyond the grip of lockdowns, of respirators, of party-poopers of all stripes. Mar Wan’s images, wordless, unfold nevertheless like a narrative: a city and its kids pensive and fearful, opening up to varying levels of paranoia or ambivalence. Then, ultimately, alive in the club, out of necessity and desperation.

The characters are strong, even if they aren’t reoccurring; you’re still left with the sense of having walked through a place and a time that affected everyone. A vivid and excellent assemblage of work.