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Urban Photography

In order to define urban photography, it is first important to understand street photography. Street photography typically refers to documentary-like portrait photos of passers-by taken in an urban setting on the spur of the moment. The genre is often associated with the Golden Age of photography which lasted from 1890 to 1970. The great masters of this period include Cartier-Bresson (whose treasured Leica has become an iconic street photography camera), Weegee (known for his images of crime scenes), Robert Doisneau (and his famous 'The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), William Klein (one of the genre's pioneers known for his focus on children), Vivian Maier, Eugene Atget and many other key names.

As street photography has become a genre of its own, there seems to be a key difference between 'new' and 'traditional' street photography. The subject in street photography has gradually shifted from the street itself to the men and women who occupy the urban space. This photographic technique has allowed some of the great photographers to capture the depth and intensity of certain facial expressions and give their images a strong sense of emotion. Nonetheless, this perspective overlooks certain aspects of the original school of urban photography. Faces and staging have eclipsed urban buildings and their architecture.

Street photography has come to reflect post-modern capitalist society and mass-consumerism where entertainment and immediacy are highly sought after. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, this cannot be denied and this is what distinguishes it from urban photography.

In a similar way to traditional street photography, urban photography not only tries to freeze people in time but also places. Urban photography captures and enhances buildings and their architecture by playing around with lighting and framing in a way that only professional photographers know how. When we consider that 50% of the world's population now live in cities we can see how each image is instilled with the artist's own opinion of the urban world.

In short, urban photography cannot simply be reduced to street photography; it immortalises urban life with a much broader perspective. It captures everything urban-related; the skyscrapers of Manhattan's skyline are just one example. Passers-by are not necessarily the photograph's main focus; objects are the genre's favourite subject. Much more than just a mere spectator, urban photography is also critical of its society. Artsper has an exclusive selection of works from artists with a shrewd outlook on contemporary society and who want to share their new perspectives on the world around them. Discover the splendid analogue photos of Paris in the 1930s by Roger Schall or Manhattan photography as well as London photographies and get lost in the depth of Gwenaël Bollinger's incredible shots!

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