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Whether you’re interested in more abstract forms of urban photography or prefer the geometric patterns explored in photographs which focus upon architecture, we are certain that you will find something for you.
Nick Miners is an urban photographer with a penchant for the latter. He takes what many critics deem ‘ugly’ architecture and uses it to produce beautiful imagery. The extreme levels of contrast within his images render them almost hypnotic in their representation of geometric patterns.
Meanwhile, Tomas Cambas produces urban images that hint to traditional documentary photography. His abstract photographs depict fresh and unexpected perspectives on urban photography. The unique work of this Buenos Aires-based artist is certainly not to be missed.
Urban photography is as old as the practice of photography itself which began in the mid-1800s and regularly used the street as its subject. Often used interchangeably with the term ‘street photography’, the neologism ‘urban photography’, which was coined only within the last decade, stands for a practice which focuses significantly on capturing the way in which city-dwellers work, live and move within the urban setting and its surrounding architecture.
Urban photography takes its roots in the practice of traditional street photography which began to split into a distinct dichotomy during the golden era of photography. While some photographers focused primarily upon capturing images of people, others moved towards landscapes in which human subjects were practically absent. There grew a distinct line between new and traditional street photography.
The new form moved towards capturing human subjects in various situations and neglected previously significant aspects such as architectural details and the overall atmosphere. Meanwhile, traditional street photography evolved into what is known as urban photography today and seeks to encapsulate not only people but their surroundings, and importantly the relationship between the two. It offers a commentary upon contemporary urban life, as well as telling stories and examining people and the ways in which they are both connected to and disconnected from their environments. Life and culture may be constantly evolving, as is the practice of photography, but one thing which remains the same is the powerful interaction between humans and the environments we inhabit – this is what urban photography seeks to encapsulate.
One technique which remains hugely popular in the genre, despite photographers no longer being constrained to its use due to technological limitations, is the deliberate use of black and white colouring in urban photography. The use of black and white in photography makes for a significant visual and emotional effect and many photographers describe monochromatic imagery as offering a greater connection to the soul, while the use of colour is thought of as merely visually pleasing to the eye. In urban photography, the use of black and white lends more impact, mood and atmosphere to the image. While some photographers shoot in black and white film, many opt to shoot in colour and convert the image digitally to grayscale post-production using editing software such as Photoshop.
Much has changed since the invention of black and white photography. Technological advancements mean that images can be hugely modified allowing for significant flexibility in photo editing and the possibility of extremely abstract images.
The modern city offers almost limitless subjects and skylines to photograph. The grey concrete fields, towering skyscrapers and urban decay offer a great deal of photographic potential due to their bold, geometric structures, which is harnessed by many urban photographers. Although cityscapes offer impressive, far-off vantage points which make for striking images, many urban photographers emphasise the importance of focusing upon the smaller scenes and simply waiting for the right moment to strike in which the relationship between subject and surrounding is perfectly depicted.
Among the most seminal artists in the genre are its forefathers Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson, both of whom played a significant role in the medium’s history. Atget preferred to be classed as an ‘author-producer’, rather than a photographer and he began producing images of a vanishing metropolis as far back as 1898, when his 30-year-long series entitled Vieux Paris depicted architecture and urban views in their final days before the domination of modernity and urbanisation.
Cartier-Bresson is viewed not only as significant in the urban photography movement, but is considered the father of the movement at large. He was one of the first photographers to start using the 35mm film format which is still well loved today by amateur and professional photographers alike and his eye for details and composition remains undeniably relevant and without compromise.
Find out more in our Guide To Photography.