Venice is not only canals, and not only tourists. On a small square, the locals enjoy the warming sun on a chilly January day.
Archive for September, 2006
Both sunrise and dusk photos are among my favorite kinds of urban photography methods, as I find they help convey the more inscrutable, inconspicuous facets of urban form and design that a city exudes, normally unseen in the usual daytime pictures.
Ubiquitous throughout midtown Kansas City, Missouri, are the endearing Colonnade style apartment buildings that comprise a great deal of the residential architecture in the city. They are most frequently found ranging from two to three stories, plus basements.
“Princess,” Rua do Duque, Lisbon
“Don’t feed the cats,” Macau
I arrived at this crowded, sprawling café—a maze of brightly-coloured rooms, mismatched chairs and squeaky hardwood floors—to participate in a University of the Streets Café discussion on the flâneur. Ironically, I had come in a rush—just another bow-headed pedestrian pressing forward—but I’m usually what is considered to be a flâneur; my favourite pastime is to wander aimless around the city, camera in hand, recording anything that strikes my eye.
At a little after seven o’clock, as a dozen or so people sat near the front of the café waiting for the discussion to start, Mia Hunt, a doctoral student in Design Art and Urban Studies at Concordia University, got things rolling. The flâneur, she told us, emerged in nineteenth-century Paris, the product of a new bourgeois class and Baron Haussmann’s dramatic makeover of the city. A dandyish figure who strolled unhurriedly down the capital’s boulevards, the flâneur was best captured in the work of Charles Baudelaire. “For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate observer,” he wrote, “it’s an immense pleasure to take up residence in multiplicity; in whatever is seething, moving, evanescent and infinite: you’re not at home but you feel at home everywhere; you see everyone, you’re at the centre of everything yet you remain hidden from everybody.”
It’s hard to understate the importance of cities. Throughout human history, they have produced the greatest ideas, most influential movements and most productive revolutions. They also reflect the human condition: in a world that is now mostly urban, cities tell us about ourselves. Our greatest achievements and our most profound miseries are embodied by the brick and mortar beast of urbanity. Cities are more than just concentrations of people — they are the collective product of their inhabitants’ individual hopes, dreams and efforts.
Yet many people do not understand their own cities. They have not been exposed to the intricacies of urban life; they don’t know how to read their city as it exists. I don’t mean to sound pedantic. After all, none of us can ever really understand a city — it’s in their nature to be inscrutable and amorphous. But we should do our best to develop what I like to call an urban eye: a perspective that observes cities as they are and traces from the ground up their impact on our own lives and society as a whole. The simplest way to do this is to walk down the street and observe what’s there. Buildings, sidewalks, signs, graffiti, cars — all of these everyday objects tell us a lot about the life of the city and its inhabitants.
That’s what I’ve tried to do at Urbanphoto since I started it in 1999. Over the years, I have, with the help of many others, tried to investigate cities through word and photography. This fall, as Urbanphoto neared its seventh anniversary, I decided it was time for a change. After all of these years, it needed a better way to fulfill its mission. So today, I am relaunching it as a collaborative blog.