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.
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.