Urban Street Photography

Urban street photography is a bit of a misleading term - in truth, I don't think such a thing exists. There is street photography, and then there is urban photography. The two are distinctly different.

You may think I am about to split hairs but please bear with me as I believe I have a valid point.



The image below was shot in a public square in the centre of a large city. It includes a man whose gaze is averted from the newspaper and directed at the photographer (me) but without altering the angle of his head.

It's a relaxing activity, and the image depicts something we have all done at one time or another, which is gone to the park to sit and read for a while. 

Above: In the Town Square, Margot, India by Anne Darling

It's also amusing as the 'horse' is looking sideways at the man's newspaper - how many times have you stood on bus or train with someone trying to read your paper out of the corner of their eye?!

Anyway... because there is a man in it, there is real life in it. It was shot while I was out on the streets of Margao in India so that makes it a street photograph. Street + life = street photography. Am I being simplistic? 

Bear with me! Urban photography also relates to the city, to urban areas, to images made (or found) while walking around the streets. But it differs from street photography (which is about life as it is found immediately in front of the lens) in that there are no people in the images that result.

Urban photography is abstract, it implies life, but there are no people there unless they are very small and insignificant and only add to the aesthetic or abstract organisation of the two-dimensional surface of the photo.

Urban photography often conveys a feeling of isolation or emptiness and its proponents like to photograph old railway lines, sewers, empty warehouses, abandoned buildings, under the bridge at night... these are the kind of images that can be called 'urban'.

The shot below is an urban scene in a town called Dong Ujimqinqi in Inner Mongolia. I don't know what that funny looking thing in the foreground is - it's a pole with a spirally wiry thing on the top. But it's definitely urban photography. No people, so not street photography. Urban photography is landscape photography but it's not done in the countryside. It's cityscape photography if you like.

So does urban street photography actually exist as a distinct genre? Can we somehow amalgamate the two ideas into the one concept? I will leave it up to you to decide!

Above: The Town of Dong Ujimqinqi, Inner Mongolia by Anne Darling

I have also written on urban photography - click the link if you would like to read that too. 

Or follow this link to see if there are any books on Amazon on the topic of urban street photography :)

› Urban Street Photography


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