Monday, 17 December 2012

Six of the best.....urban

Looking through my archive I've discovered a distinct lack of urban photographs this year which, given that I have said I am 'inspired by the rhythms of the city', doesn't give a very true picture of my normal photographic practice! I'm not sure why this is, because I spend just as much time as ever in the urban environment, possibly even more.  I think perhaps this calls for a New Year's Resolution along the lines of 'take more pictures of the city' because out of all the photographic genres, urban is the one I am most drawn to.  The city is an endlessly recycled canvas providing a ceaseless source of changing subjects, potentially a creative inspiration which I must make more use of.

I deliberately use the term 'urban photography' and not 'street photography' which these days more often than not seems to involve people in amusing or unlikely situations - once you 'get' the picture, there is little more to be understood from it. I am more interested in the architecture of the street - the signs and symbols, the detritus and the traces of activity, ambiguous juxtapositions and reflections, which go to make up the complex layers of city life....


  1. (This will be a bit manifesto-ish.)

    Question: how useful is it to think in genres? I'm wondering because urban photography really is a very wide field: many genres all merging into each other to the point where insistence on any one may be felt more as constraint than stimulus. No-one runs across the whole of the field; we all find our own range which probably shifts over time.

    The problem with Street Photography is that one strand of photography-in-the-street has been promoted, mostly by In Public with perhaps some assistance from the Tate, to the point where it dominates and claims prescriptive rights. Before, the term could cover work from urban warfare in Nicaragua to overcoat ads in London via urban decay in St Louis (2001 exhibition: Open City: street photographs since 1950) The street itself has disappeared from street photography. Social or political contexts have departed along with the spatial. The connection between the spaces of the city and the society moving in it, along with social reportage, has given way to the jokey stuff you refer to. It sometimes achieves a subtle surrealism beyond the one-liner, but usually doesn't. Street Photography, capitalised, has reduced from field to genre to commodity.

    The photography of streets, of urban space now has no name. Perhaps it's as well; as long as it is un-named, it is unlimited. Keep at it.

    Peter Luck (not anon: Blogger won't accept my URL)

    1. I don't know why we always try to categorise the type of photography we do. When I start thinking about my own work I usually put myself in the urban photography category, but I realise that just isn't true. I think part of the problem for me is that one side of me thinks that I should specialise in one particular type of photography, become familiar with it with a view to producing more meaningful work. The other side is just eclectic and thinks that I should photograph wherever I am and whatever I come across - probably a truer expression of my character!

      I have become quite disillusioned with the type of visual gags which often pass for street photography these days. Photographing in the street should consist of much more than just that, though it does have its place. But as you say, the social, political and cultural contexts are too often missing.

      Keep plugging away Peter. You are good at what you do and have found your niche!