UrbanWeird Photography
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Photo Sketchbook

Thoughts on general photography and personal photographic process.

Intimacy of the Inanimate

Since this latest issue of UrbanWeird Photo is dedicated to the abstract and “smallness” of the metropolis, I thought I would talk about why I and probably many other photographers photograph such scenes.

There are many reasons artists create abstracts or condensed images, and there are several reasons I do it. However, the one I want to talk about now is that of “intimacy”.  The “abstracts” presented in this issue may not go by the traditional definition of abstract in that the individual objects of the image may be discernible, but what these objects comprise may still be a mystery – hard to define. This is why I combined such abstracts with other more recognizable images that are still not quite the bigger picture that a wider view would provide.

Often, The City is thought of as this unfeeling, cold entity that is incapable of embracing the more emotional aspects of The Human. But what is The City, but an extension of The Human? The City would not exist without The Human. I argue that The City expresses its own character and emotions. No one would argue that each city has its own unique character, well at least the more successful ones. It is possible to have a more intimate relationship with The City, particularly the one you live in or have a particularly affinity to. Just give a thought about why you like one city over the other. I can almost guarantee that anthropomorphic terms will start seeping into the description. The City is anthropomorphic.

While compiling the images for this issue, I had in my mind a term that my friend and mentor Martin Bailey said about natural landscape images that are of a specific much smaller sub-scene of a wider grander vista. He called them “intimate landscapes”. That term has stuck with me as I developed my outlook toward my photography into a more urban universe.

When I am wandering around Tokyo (many times this is what I do; just pick an area and wander), I try to have a few sub-genres in the back of my mind to focus on for that particular area or my mood that day, for example, street, architectural, grunge, black and white/color, and abstracts/urban intimates. Many times these of course overlap. When I am in a more abstract/intimate mood, I want to get more personal with the metropolis via this particular ward, neighbourhood, street, structure, wall, etc… By going deep into the metropolis this way, it becomes more intimate; more one-to-one. It is like having a not too serious of a conversation with a friend with none of the formalities of a bit more serious conversation within a group of acquaintances that a scene such as a grand cityscape would convey.

Of course this does not mean that an urban intimate image had to be informal and willy-nilly. My love of the geometric is also satisfied with such images. Getting right down to the atomic level of The City is a great exercise in geometric composition. Because of the limiting nature of urban intimate photography, compositional elements, such as line, shape, and pattern, take on a kind of enhanced beauty. The way the photographer encompasses the compositional elements of a particular micro-scene is a dialogue between him/her and The City; very personal, very localized. The photographer has taken the time to get to know The City more deeply on a more intimate scale. When I get the chance to become more personal with the city I live in or happen to be in, I get this feeling of appreciation from it; that I’ve taken the time to actually stop and silently converse with it.