phillip toledano: “bankrupt”.

Maybe it’s part of our own human arrogance, but there’s something fascinating about imagining the world with us no longer in it. Not a world where we never existed, but the world as it would go on if at this very moment, today, rapture-like, we all of a sudden disappeared. Not vacated and had time to clean-up what we thought shouldn’t be left behind, but just vanished with little warning.

With “Bankrupt”, acclaimed NYC-based photographer Phillip Toledano gives us perfect snapshots of something that equates our abolition about as closely as it can while we’re still hanging around. In another facet of his study of those sort of sterile, factory, monolithic modern offices he examined in his series “Cubelife”, here he looks at offices that are no longer because they went under. The interesting this is that, as is part of the risk of the modern Western economy, businesses now can almost literally disappear – bankrupt and shut down and finished in a day. These aren’t places where everyone was notified and packed up and left everything spotless for their predecessors. These are buildings where people quite literally grabbed what they cared about and then just disappeared.

The detritus speaks volumes. And raises questions – “why is there a single white gym sock on the office floor?”. With nobody remaining there to answer our queries, we’ll simply never get to know…

“As I started shooting bankrupt offices I found it to be more archaeology than photography. Everywhere I went I found signs of life, interrupted.”

Below is my favourite shot: the two errant pencils thrown into one of those awful, generic, cheap-ass flatboard ceilings found in faceless offices from coast to coast:

Toledano is super well known and much blogged about for his disturbing body-morphic series “Hope & Fear” (check out the “baby suit”…) but he’s also got some of the most innovative, interesting editorial work around. His entire site is definitely worth a full scope out, but here are just a few of my favourites:

Via SwissMiss


  1. Harry Gousopoulos says:

    I totally agree when you say there’s something intriguing about the idea of a world without us, as if one day, a plague or meteor or something came along and completely wiped out the human race. Indeed, there’s a fantastic book on this very subject. Not sure if you’ve heard of it. It’s called The World Without Us, and its written by Alan Weisman. Each chapter explores a different concept or idea, eg. what happens to a big city when we’re gone, where do all the plastics go, what happens to the engineering feats of the world, etc. It’s a great read. And the best part is the feeling it leaves you … that life (apart from us that is) will continue, will thrive. There’s something … comforting in that.


  1. […] of bankrupt companies. It was shot in 2001 and the resulting book was published in 2004. More from Shape + Color. The photograph for Time reminds me of Julia Fullerton-Batten. Some of her new work is up on Lost […]

  2. […] of New York-based artist Phillip Toledano. From the eerie solitude of his photographic series “Bankrupt” to one of the most beautiful projects I’ve ever seen – his exquisite “Days With My […]

  3. […] why my gratitude and love goes out to a favourite photographer of mine, and one I’ve posted about before, Phillip Toledano. In his latest project he’s taken photography, memoir, chronicle, and diary […]

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