Book Review: Cloud Chamber by Dan Ziskie
by Miabelle Salzano
While walking down the streets of New York City, it is difficult to remember that everyone we pass is just as much of a person as we are; that they have just as rich of a life and are walking with just as much purpose. Each face we pass is not merely an extra on the movie sets of our lives, but rather the star of his or her own movie in which it is we that appear to be the extras. Dan Ziskie explores this notion in his book Cloud Chamber, which contains photographs of everyday people that he took on the streets of New York City. He interrogates the idea of the isolation that one so often feels while walking the streets of New York and opposed this with the inevitable interconnection between passing strangers, the cause and effect that the actions of disparate people have on one another.
A cloud chamber is scientifically used to examine particle interaction. In this project, Ziskie looks at New York City as a conceptual cloud chamber, considering the stories that make up a person’s interior and how small nuances within these stories have the capacity to effect a total stranger. The photographs force us to think about strangers in a way we ordinarily wouldn’t. While lingering on a facial expression, body position, or piece of clothing, we are compelled to ask questions about the moments that had come immediately before or will come after. Why are these people hugging; are they saying hello or goodbye? Why is the man bowing his head in despair; did he lose his wallet or his wife?
In Cloud Chamber, Ziskie gives us a multidimensional profile of New York City. The definition of a place lies in its people and, while we are able to see the individuality for which New York City is famous, we also get to experience the privacy and loneliness that comes with living in a heavily populated area. The photographs make us aware of the aliveness of each person but they also show each person living only in the midst their own, isolated lives. Each picture has a clear subject, a star, that we temporarily care about until we turn the page. Then we go back to watching our own movies, being alone while interacting, contributing to our own, isolated cloud chambers.
Cloud Chamber inspires us to be less egocentric, realizing that not everyone was dealt the same hand. It’s so important to be empathetic, uniting with our fellow human beings, in this time of social and political division.
Order a copy of Cloud Chamber here!