“He began to make far-flung expeditions to frozen tundras on his own dime just to meet people who were living in the harshest of conditions. Why? To let them know somebody cared about them, to recognize the resilience it takes to survive outside the box—where Tomeu lives to this day”, photographer Donna Ferrato tells us about the career path taken by the young Majorcan she met at a workshop in Barcelona. Tomeu Coll is known for images of the rough life—he has traveled to sites in the Ukraine and Latvia still in Soviet-era ruins, in addition to rural areas of Majorca, to capture images of people and their surroundings. Coll is now partly based in New York City. How has he experienced the city during the few years he has lived here?
There are, of course, those moments of everyday life in New York. Many of the images are from Leonard Street, Tribeca, were we can assume Coll worked (maybe continues working) after accompanying Ferrato and fellow students to Manhattan. He photographed the people he met and the physicality of the city with fresh eyes and very charming sense of optimism.
But perhaps Coll’s most memorable photographs of NY are those related to two 2011 events: the Occupy Wall Street protests and the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, both of which were given the honor of separate projects, OWS: First Days, and Ten Years After. The circus atmosphere of these occasions allowed for moments of bizarre performance, such as the demonstrations by the extremist hate group that calls themselves the Westboro Baptist Church. Another photograph shows a more orderly, if not haunting environment, with police officers hired to patrol Zuccotti Park during the OWS occupation lined up as they await orders from their superiors. The two lights commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks shoot up into the night sky, partly hidden by buildings. Even in the “civilized” environment of the city, the photographer has found problematic subjects similar to those in his earlier work.