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It’s behind you! Extra-terrestrial sensations in Nine Elms

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

The placeless reality of Nine Elms, where the starkly modern clashes with Victorian terraces, inspired Romantic enthusiast Francesco Russo’s photograph, Urban Beings V

Urban Beings V,  London, 2021. Camera Nikon Z6 with 45mm shift lens
Urban Beings V, London, 2021. Camera Nikon Z6 with 45mm shift lens Credit: Francesco Russo

Coming from Treviso, Francesco Russo finds that even in modern Italian cities development can feel preserved in aspic. But during his architecture studies at the University of Venice Russo had a Romantic fascination with London’s post-industrial landscapes and their swift loss. Perhaps that is what brought him to live and work here in 2016.

The placelessness of Nine Elms as a site of global speculation brought him back to earth with a bump but that Romanticism stuck. It resulted in the curious ambivalence of this image; as if acknowledging some sublime threat bearing down on the city from on high, but still leaving the viewer transfixed by its beauty. A sense of otherworldliness is made literal; Russo intimates new development as a kind of extra-terrestrial presence. ‘The counterpoint of the Victorian city with encroaching modern development is like the silent menace of violence,’ he says.

But for him, it is also stunning – like the meteor shower that triggers devastating events in John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, where its fantastic, glorious rain of bright, green light is alien, mesmerising – and malevolent.