Why Urban Exploration In Photography Is So Vital

Urbanization is no new idea to Tom Badge. The city has been growing and changing for decades. However, a new breed of photography has emerged in recent times. This photography actively seeks out the essence of the city, the urban. There is no single visual aesthetic in this new trend; in fact the style often contradicts itself. This style admires both the sleek and the grunge, the clean and the tarnished, the new and the old. It is hard to explain what exactly constitutes this new type of look, apart from a sense of collective experience. Nearly everyone knows the feeling of the overpowering city, unwelcoming and unyielding. This allows all people to enjoy this new style.262-3In most urban-inspired photos, some key characteristics permeate through the visual experience. Noticeably, symmetry is a highly sought after element in this sort of photography. People often capture architecture or scenes through puddles or still water to create a duality in their images, resulting in visually striking mirrored pictures. Another often seen element is a desaturation of colour, which creates this urban and cold vibe in the photo. The colours are often dulled slightly, or in some cases completely whitewashed except for one tone. This creates a surreal photographic reality, where the presented picture is not the same as that which was photographed. You could recognize a photo location, but due to the edited aesthetics of the photo, not truly connect with it. This adds to the sense of disconnect between photo and viewer, only extending the unwelcoming vibe of the urban.

This aesthetic calls for extremes, which is perhaps why contradictions within the style are so common. A photo finds itself being thrust to the ends of the exposure, temperature and contrast spectrums, with relatively little middle ground. This is seen with photos focusing on blue or orange tones, some photos combining both the warm and cold colours for powerful contrast. Different levels of dedication to this craft are seen online, with many (like myself) simply trying to seek out the visual treasure of the urban in regular areas of the city, yet others actively find abandoned, sealed or partially demolished places to explore and photograph. The fact that both approaches are equally appreciated by the style is testament to its flexibility and what I expect will be longevity.

IMG_3747-2The urban aesthetic has influenced fashion photography as much as it has other types of photography. It seems as if labels aren’t selling clothes, they’re selling a style through their visual advertising. This style needs to appear in a world known to the buyer, which is why so many fashion shoots are moving to the streets rather than the studio. The models are of a more attainable type and the scenario is more relevant to the buyer. Fashion photography nowadays seems to enact itself in one of two ways. The first being the more clean and possibly more commercial way, which is where the model is portrayed on a blank, often flat coloured background. This only emphasises the clothing that is being sold and nothing else, no distractions.

Alternatively, a method that I’m beginning to see more and more of, the photographer treats the clothing as a lifestyle, which you’re buying in to. Now this sounds sort of obscure, but if you look for it, you’ll find it. Take the photography of ‘Bronze Snake Shop’, the models are always found out in the urban environment, in an imperfect spot. This is increasingly popular for fashion labels, as I think it gives the buyer a sense of allure, a sense of buying into a world.

IMG_3766-2The urban vibe in photography also seems to correlate with the vintage aesthetic, which is also becoming extremely popular. Nowadays, it seems to be a choice between ultra modern or classic vintage, yet both seem to fit together perfectly. I see this in my own work, I love old cars with their shiny metal trimmings, but I also love to see these very cars influenced by the editing techniques of the urban photography. In my opinion, the urban vibe in photography has encouraged more people to get involved in the art.

Landscape photography, while impressive, often seems out of reach for someone just starting out. Travelling out to different regions of the country is far more of an effort than what is required to go to the city. This means that more people get involved in scouring the city for beauty. The fact that almost everyone has a camera on them at all times, be part of their phone or other device, means that we are able to capture more moments than any other generation before us. I think this will bring more interest to the world of photography and the art behind composition.
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