May 2010: Ad-sites

This project only really started towards the beginning of last year when I noticed an increase in hoardings on new construction sites with all these impressions of what it could be like to live in a modern utopia…

They all hinted at an elevated social existence which could be obtained simply by living and working in these as-yet-unbuilt spaces. I wanted to capture the distinction between this utopian vision and the social reality, which remains out of public view.

I began to see these architectural impressions as taking on the role of advertising billboards and I wanted this to be the main concept in the series. After a few test shots, I discovered that by shooting the project in square format the hoardings and billboards lend themselves to the geometric continuity throughout. I also made slight tweaks to the alignments during post-production to enhance this which allowed me to be a bit more playful with the background and foreground subjects.

I’ve been pretty amazed at the feedback from this series: winning the 2009 New York Photo Festival Fine Art category, an AOP award, shortlisted for the IPAs as well as being invited to exhibit the series at the Photographers’ Gallery has all been a great start.

Michael Whelan


Born in Edinburgh, Michael Whelan moved to London aged 16. Following an interest in technical drawing, he started a career in cartography but, after taking his dad’s old camera to gigs, photography took over.

Since graduating with a first from his BA Photography (hons) at the University of East London, Whelan has won several awards including the Fine Art Single category at the 2009 New York Photo Awards and being voted the AOP’s 2009 Assistant Photographer of the Year.

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