Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban


This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is URBAN.   Guest host, Terrence S. Jones of A Guy with a Camera, describes Urban Photography as providing the backdrop for Street Photography.  Writes Jones:  “[Urban Photography]  is about documenting urban living space and how people adapt their environment to certain needs and vice versa“.

Thinking about Jones’ definition, I first thought it meant that urban photography is more than just architecture or cityscapes; that it must have the inclusion of people in the photographed environment.  I thought about this for a while, trying to think which photo I might have, or might take, that fits this definition.  But, then I started to think of  looking at the function of architecture, the myriad structures that make up a cityscape, and realized that buildings, streets, signs, utilities all represent the adaptations of humans to their environment, the creation of something to fit a need.  And then I thought of a photo that I took a few years ago that I’ve always liked.

Manhattan. 43rd and 8th Ave.

When I travel to NYC, I always find my eye drawn to the numerous, old, faded brick ads, sometimes referred to as ghost signs,  on the sides of buildings.  While I will occasionally see ghost signs in my hometown, I live in a city where there wasn’t a tall building before the mid-70′s.  Not only are newer buildings not typically constructed of brick, but zoning laws, billboards and electronic signs have made this kind of advertisement obsolete.

I am drawn as well to the water towers and tanks on top of the city buildings.  This kind of small water tower is not something that you see in the midwest.   Yet, they dot many urban skylines.  They aren’t pretty to look at but like satellite dishes and electrical wires, they easily fade into the background of everyday life.  With or without graffiti, with or without the peeling paint and rust spots, I find them fascinating structures.

While I don’t know that I can pinpoint what is it that fascinates me about these urban sights, I think it is more than the novelty of the signs and the urban ugliness of the water tanks.  The signs represent a past function, sometimes of the building, sometimes just the faded significance of the signage.  The water tanks are a necessity of urban living spaces.  I have numerous photos of each.  All of these photographs are cityscapes to me, all convey “urban”.

Since I also like photographing shadows, this photo seemed the ideal choice for this challenge:  a water tower, a faded painted brickad, a shadow as the sun set behind me as I walked down 43rd Street.   As I reviewed the set of photographs that accompanied this one, I recalled that I had originally started shooting the Westin Hotel on 8th Ave.  I like the purple, steel-blue, and turquoise windows on the northwestern side of this new building.  Once I realized that the ghost sign was in the corner of the frame, I repositioned my camera to take a much more interesting photo.  Maybe some day when I’m back in New York, I’ll take photos of the colorful Westin that I’ll share on this site.

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About Anne Camille

I bought my first SLR camera (a Yashica TL-ELECTRO) when I was 17 and imagined I would become a great photographer. My love of photography, unfortunately, was thwarted by a photo-journalism class (the first "C" in college, but not the last!) as well as several packages of accidentally exposed photo paper and the high cost of film on a student budget. An unexpected gift of a Canon Rebel xSI four years ago reawakened those old, dormant dreams. A bit wiser now, I knew that photog instructor was full of bs even if technically he was pretty good. I began snapping away and haven't looked back. Mostly, I shoot nature photography because flowers and rocks don't talk back at you when you pose them. I am a photographer, a reader, a writer, a thinker, a dreamer. Mostly you'll see the photographer here, but signs of the others shine through every now and again.
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23 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

  1. eof737 says:

    I know that wall! :lol:

  2. pixitales says:

    I love those old adds and there are tons of them in downtown Tulsa. What a great idea and great photo.

    • Anne Camille says:

      I would guess that there are a lot of brick buildings in downtown Tulsa. Bet some of them are really fascinating and for items that are not used today.

  3. rutheh says:

    Perfect for URBAN. Well done.
    Best,
    Ruth in Pittsburgh

  4. jakesprinter says:

    Great work Anne :)

  5. Very nicely done – this is a wonderful image!

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  10. Patti Kuche says:

    Love your rooftop urban view Anne! Those water tanks always remind me of Petticoat Junction!

  11. Paying attention again! I remember sights like that from when I used to travel to NY regularly 12 years ago. London is also full of those traces of bygone times in the most unexpected locations.

    • Anne Camille says:

      Great to see you back in the blogosphere Gabriel. I read your latest post earlier, but was on my mobile where it is a pain to comment. Will get around to that eventually.

      I love ghost signs. There is one near where a friend used to live in Morningside Heights/Columbia area of Manhattan that advertised bedsits. Half of the sign is gone, but it looks like it was “Harmony” Hall. Sounds like a melodic place to live, though I imagine that renting a small place with a bed would be rather dismal. I know I have a photo of it in my archives — somewhere — but it would be at least 5 years old and I just am not organized enough to have that at the ready. This one is also a favorite though. There is one in the city where I live that I really like, but it is in a part of town I would not feel comfortable getting out of the car to take a shot. Would likely be the only one shooting a camera, although there are shots of another kind there often!

      Thanks for commenting and look forward to reading more posts from you in the future.

  12. These old bricks have so much more character than the modern buildings. Nice photo.

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  14. Anne, this is a wonderful photograph! Excellent choice.

    • Anne Camille says:

      Thanks, Naomi! It’s a photograph that’s been looking for a challenge! Every time that I come across it in my archives — usually while looking for something else — I wonder why I’ve forgotten about it. I stumbled upon it a few days ago so it was fresh in my mind. Funny that I didn’t remember taking the photo of the Westin Hotel building, but I can remember why I was in NY, where I was going (to dinner, before a play — I blogged about it here: http://wp.me/s1tzBV-704 ) and how I stood in an alleyway avoided traffic to get the shot. It made my evening!

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