Seeing With an Urban Eye

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.

The new Urbanphoto is going to be more dynamic, more interesting and more interactive. I like to think of it as having a global focus with a local perspective. Although its home base is still Montreal, eighteen new contributors from North America, Europe and Asia will explore, photograph and write about cities around the world; you can read more about them on our Urbanphoto and Its Contributors page. Our photos have become more accessible. We have a new Urbanphoto group on Flickr for contributors’ photos and you can upload your own photos to the group, too. My own collection of photos is being transferring to Flickr, too, where you will be able to seach and navigate them more easily. For the first time, you will be able to post comments on all of our entries and photos.

This is where I’m tempted to write something like “Cities are our lives; it’s time to look at them anew.” But this post is already self-important enough. The fact is, our international cast of contributors and new format are going to allow us to improve on what we’ve always done: explore some really cool cities. Welcome to Urbanphoto!

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday September 29 2006at 12:09 am , filed under Urbanphoto . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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