Architecture and Urban Landscape photography*

Five years ago, with Mike Seaborne, a friend who works as the curator of photography at the Museum of London and who I’d worked with on various projects, I set up a website for Urban Landscape photography. We started with our own work, but there are now a dozen photographers from around the world with work on the site or waiting to be included – and we welcome more submissions.

Probably 95% of the work sent us is unsuitable, mainly because although taken in cities it doesn’t fit our definition of urban landscape, which comes from the web site.

urban landscape photography

  • in some way describes a town or city
  • represents an attempt to understand our experience of the city
  • shows a dedication to the subject, expressed through a body of work rather than isolated images
  • concentrates on structures or processes rather than on people
  • may deal in either details or a broader view

From almost the start of photography, photographers have been recording the urban landscape for various reasons, but often concerned with city environment, city planning and city problems, including issues of housing, transport, pollution and other environmental issues, sanitation, clean water, city growth…

Urban Landscape of course overlaps with architectural photography – architecture is a vital part of the urban landscape, but the intentions of the two are different.

My pair of pictures of London’s Canary Wharf tower – made on the same day in 1992 – I hope illustrate this:

Canary Wharf from Rich Street, Limehouse, 1992 (C) Peter Marshall

Canary Wharf from Rich St puts it more clearly into an environmental and social context, and has a deliberate irony that is absent from the more formal architectural image, DLR and Canary Wharf from South Dock, below. Clearly too, it is an image of a city in transition, whereas the architectural image shows it as a monument. Of course things have changed, and a photograph from either location today would look very different.

DLR and Canary Wharf from South Quay, Isle of Dogs, 1992 (C) Peter Marshall


*This post is one of a series based on the talk “Photography and the Urban environment” given by me at Foto Arte 2007 in Brasilia in December 2007. Previous posts in the series include ‘Under the Car.’ For copyright reasons some of the images used in the talk cannot be used on >Re:PHOTO.

In Brasilia as well as some of my own work from the Urban Landscape site, I showed pictures of London by Mike Seaborne and John Davies which you can find on the Urban Landscape site, along with work by Lorena Endara, Bee Flowers, Nicola Hulett, Paul Raphaelson, Luca Tommasi and Neal Oshima.

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