Photographs can define cities. They can invent a city or at least the idea of a city, the image of a city, and that image can be so strong that once in place the photographer’s vision can never again be separated from the reality. Photographers can make stars into icons, and they can do the same for cities.
Flânerie, the activity of strolling and looking, which is carried out by the flâneur, is a recurring motif in the literature, sociology and art of the urban, and most especially of the metropolitan, existence. The flâneur is usually identified as the ‘man of the crowd’ of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire, and as one of the heroes of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project. The flâneur has a female version, the flâneuse.
The documentary photographer can often be compared to the flâneuse. Silent but for the click of the shutter, the photographer watches, waits and discovers, whilst both pride themselves on their alertness. For the photographer, the view of city through her lens is one of art and humanity.
In The Photographer and the City, Rebecca explores this relationship, at once becoming both the photographer and the flâneuse.