New York-based photographer Jade Doskow has spent the past ten years photographing the leftover architecture, art and landscaping from past international world’s fairs for her series Lost Utopias. A family trip to Seville sparked the idea for Jade as she was taken through the acres and acres of half-abandoned postmodern pavilions, left over from the 1992 Seville World’s Expo. “It really captured my imagination, the obvious regional pride in this site, but the site in a state of limbo, awkwardly placed between former glory and lack of direction,” says Jade. Three years later while at graduate school, she started thinking of the city again and began researching other world’s fairs. “What I discovered was a remarkably meaty subject, an interdisciplinary tour de force of nationalistic pride, the future through utopian design and architecture, the inherent racism of these events, and the context which ultimately shaped each of these temporary, ambitious affairs,” Jade explains.
Beginning with the 1939 and 1964 sites in New York and then the 1893 Columbian Exposition site in Chicago for logistical ease, Jade then spent five weeks shooting sites in Europe. After five years of shooting, Jade then spent more time photographing all the sites in North America, 25 in total. The photographer has now set her sites on Barcelona, Milan, Vienna, Shanghai, and Yeosu among others, as well as targeting “specific buildings that represent key goals in architecture and design”. “One of the most fascinating parts of this project is that these locations are constantly evolving, whether through human design or not, and I now revisit sites to see how they are changing over time in response to the contemporary urban needs of a particular city,” says Jade.
Jade’s style feels honest, simply documenting the sites as she sees them, allowing the fantastical structures to speak for themselves, making sure she offers glimpses into their stories. “It’s always a goal to make a picture that does more than just point something out, as well as create something that is not the ‘postcard’ image. Many of the structures in Lost Utopia are now tourist attractions – the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Unisphere to name a few – and so have been packaged and captured in an expected way,” explains the photographer. “I spend several days at each site to study how that structure interacts with the day-to-day functions of the city in which it is situated.” As a result in some images, the imposing structures appear obscured by trees, protruding out of back gardens or surrounded by traffic.
Jade’s ongoing series is a thorough investigation and catalogue of the ostentatious architecture we’ve surrounded ourselves with over the years, and it’s the relationship we have with buildings that she hopes to highlight. “In our day-to-day lives, there is often a disconnect between the individual and the greater urban environment. We go our daily routes in often the same manner each day, and often the greater context of the city, the planning of parks and blocks, is hard to filter and experience through the mayhem,” says Jade. “Through Lost Utopias I hope to bring a greater awareness to the intricacies of city planning and infrastructure, the design of the urban environment, and how to smartly and sustainably plan for the future without leaving behind a trail of ill-used architecture.”