By MICHAEL PERKINS
PHOTOGRAPHY REACTS TO SHIFTS IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR, in that it both reports and creates the news. Let people surge or sparkle in any particular direction, and the camera will shift with them, for good or ill. Photographers are camp-followers by nature, and instinctively sniff out the Next Big Thing, the Next Medium Thing, even the next Is This A Thing? in search of subject matter.
There is, at this writing, a wealth of story-telling to be done in the rebirth of American urban centers, and it’s more than just stopping by the hottest new part of town. Suddenly, it’s about the complete reversal of the systemic desertion of cities that began right after World War II, with a new generation sizing up thousands of Spielbergian burbs and finding them wanting. Moreover, urban cores are being not just renovated but embraced, not merely as this year’s megatrend but as this age’s new answer. In city after city, we are coming home, transforming our idea of “a life” to define walkable neighborhoods, an explosion in the arts, dense diversity, and locally owned businesses. It’s a great time for cities, and a great time to be a photographer.
All of human activity, from ritual to celebration, social interaction to creativity, is being re-cast in urban terms, with block after block being claimed in the name of re-use and re-purpose. It’s greener, it’s groovier, and it is rich with visuals, as the barn dance becomes the street stomp and the dead warehouse becomes the very alive coffee-house. Most importantly, children are being born into places where they can walk to real shops versus driving to unreal chains. Something is up, and it’s not merely generational, and the camera has a role in all of this.
A role and a say.