Urban Photography – A sense of place


I managed to get into town today after taking the dog for a walk this morning. It’s cold and wet up here in the North of England. I’ve been contemplating this thing ‘Urban’ genre of photography just lately. Ever since I saw a reference to it on a social media thread or website or in a magazine or somewhere I can’t quite remember; ‘Urban Photography’ – A sense of place. How does it differ from street photography and do I really care ? I’ve been asked to give a talk on Street Photography to a U3A Group after Christmas which should be fun.

Urban Photography – A sense of place

I bumped into an ex work colleague of mine whom I regard as a friend. Not a close friend.  I suppose he could be described as a peripheral friend if you know what I mean ?  He seemed a bit reluctant to stop and talk as though he was thinking “oh God it’s that nutter with a camera” but nevertheless he did stop. He seemed a bit depressed. We got onto the subject of social media. He said ” Do ya know what gets me about facebook and twitter ? You get to know what’s in people’s heads where as you didn’t before and a lot of the time it’s not pleasant.”


Roses have thorns

Dog Shit and Roses

Black Friday ? What’s all that about ? It’s amazing isn’t it how the Gods of Capitalism continue to invent new and multifarious ways to get us to part with our cash. I heard a figure of 8 Billion quoted that would be spent on so called Black Friday. On this day, for one day only the big business’s find ways to supposedly slash their prices and thus create newsworthy mayhem on the High St. Am I cynical ? You bet I am. There can be no sadder shopping sight than seeing people slugging it out over a 40 inch flat screen TV ? How pathetic.  People falling over each other in panic and excitement to be the first through the doors to get those things they don’t really need or most likely actually want. There is a big difference in this world between ‘need’ and ‘want’.

Urban Photography Pedagogical Symposium

Urban Photograph or Street Photograph ?

The latest issue of FLIP magazine ( for London Independent Photography) came through the door today. This issue’s theme is Urban. What the difference is between Street Photography and Urban I’m not quite sure but maybe reading this from cover to cover, which I always do, I’ll be more educated. I could also book myself onto a talk given at The Photographers Gallery on Monday 13 Nov 10.30 – 16.00

A symposium of contemporary approaches and debates within the visual and pedagogical practice of urban photography. 

Symposium ? That’s a fancy word for meeting or conference. Pedagogical ? That means the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical practise. So basically this meeting is to discuss contemporary approaches and debates ‘within’  looking and the teaching of urban photography ? Strewth ! Will there be alcohol available ? Symposium and Pedagogue are favourite words of the academic photography theorists. There’s loads more.

I’ve been into town today to do a bit of my own urban photography. The image above is hot off the press. My clothes retailer didn’t have anything that took my fancy and the chap who sometimes has interesting photography books has sold the monograph he had on Chernobyl by Robert Pollidori. He got £40 for it online. I’m glad really because I was tempted and now I’m wishing I had because he offered me £30 and it’s £74 on Amazon. Ah well. Meanwhile in Oxfam there were two superb books of the work of Gilbert and George ( Artists)  for £30 the pair. I might have to go back and get them tomorrow.

Definitely Urban ? or is it Street ? Oh I don’t know ! what the hell !


Environmental Portraiture

I think this is what you call Environmental Portraiture ? I took it two or three years ago in Sheffield while out doing some street photography. I’ve added it to my ongoing English project. A search for national identity blah blah etc. I was struck by the headline on the billboard and the way in which the lady was wrapped up against the cold. The red and the blue in the background help the colour tremendously.  Personally I’d have worn a hat but I got talking to her and she allowed me to make a few images. I don’t ask my subjects to smile but I don’t ask them not too either. I say “just be yourself”. There’s nothing worse in a photo than a forced smile, it just shows as forced and if a person is just themselves then whatever mood they’re in will come through in the image.

The image below I called Joint of Ham. It was taken at Flagg Races in the Peak District, an annual horse racing event. These people saw me with my camera and invited me to take their image. They even offered me a glass of wine which was nice of them. I love the way the man is holding the knife. They were having a lovely time. English people like to have a lovely time.

Amityville Chesterfield

There’s a ghost in my house !

I noticed this house on my way down to the shops. It’s just around the corner from where my Grandparents used to live. They’re buried just up the road in St Johns Church. I took a special trip to get this image, I just had to capture it for my archive.  What was Halloween when we were kids has been hijacked by commercialism slowly but surely and is now ‘Trick or Treat’. It still is known as Halloween but you don’t hear any kids saying to their parents ” can we just stop in and see if we can get apples out of a barrel of water with our hands behind our backs, please oh can we Pa while Mom rustles us up some toffee apples and hot buttered muffins?”. Trick or Treat was brought over from America by, I would believe, Charlie Brown and Peanuts. I blame them. The idea that if you don’t give us some sweets we’ll play a trick on you. In the case of a neighbour up the road it was their car tyres getting slashed. Little old ladies up and down the country spend the night in fear that they’re going to open the door to a bag of flour or broken egg. Despite us barricading our front door some kids still didn’t get it that we weren’t playing, knocked on the door and sent the dog bonkers. I heard on the parents saying “I don’t think they want it”. I wouldn’t mind so much but about four years ago I went out to document the estates activities with my camera and some parent took offence and phoned the police. Ten minutes later there’s three police cars turned up blue lights flashing  questioning why I was out photographing children. “I’m not” I told them, “I’m a photographer and I’m documenting Halloween night per se, I do a lot of social documentary stuff, it’s what I do”. The policemen knew that I wasn’t  breaking the law so told me ” well someone phoned us up to report someone photographing children, it was probably a curtain twitcher”. The irony of this of course that photography out in the street i.e. in the public domain is not illegal but ‘Extortion’ i.e. ‘demanding goods or money with menaces’ is illegal.