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Monday, 10 January 2011


Mike J. said:

I've always wondered why cities don't have official photographers—just someone to wander around on a permanent basis capturing records of the way the city looked as it evolved.

They do. They are -- or at least were -- called "newspaper photographers."

city photographer: The closest one i know of is a gentleman from Corpus Christi who was sort of the defacto city photographer. His work was extensive, over 1 million negatives dating from the twenties until his death. unbelievable scope of coverage of one town by one individual. http://www.cctexas.com/?fuseaction=main.view&page=2558 and http://cclandmarks.org/index.cfm/fa/gallery.htm

No, that's not quite what I mean. Newspaper photographers capture the events and activities in a city, but not (or not often) the city itself—views, buildings, architecture, parks, businesses, etc. I'm talking about a documentary approach rather than a news approach, and a photographer who wouldn't have to photograph things through the filter of newsworthiness.


City photographer? Great idea Mike and a case of synchronicity. One of my projects for this year is to record the small community I live in. In the process I hope to duplicate some views that are in old postcards.

Melbourne (Australia) photographer Mark Strizic unofficially did this in the '50s and '60s. His exhibition and subsequent book is considered to be a local masterpiece.


Mike, I have a very meager memory. Please, please, don't end TOP until you've repeated all your stories at least a half dozen times. Maybe not even then.

Years ago, I was briefly an "official" photographer in Golden, Colorado. The local historical society hired and (barely) paid me to photograph each facade in a historical district. There's probably a little of this documentation going on at any moment, but not enough. When I came to Denver in the late '70s, it had a wealth of dilapidated post-industrial buildings downtown, and a busy railyard, that were far more colorful than today's designer-styled instant urbanist paradise. I documented those old relics a bit, but not enough. When they're gone, the photography stops but my memories remain, fading.

Gotta put in a good word for Montreal here. I visited for the first time in October, and it was a visual delight. I was especially drawn to scenes of rooftops. There must be a law, or at least a custom, against leaving any roof flat or unadorned. Instead, they're steepled, ornamented, castellated in a most elevating style. Montrealers like to view their city from commanding locations, like the Olympic Tower, or the old church belfry by the Old Port. When an historic government building was being renovated, the whole structure and scaffolding was wrapped in plastic sheeting neatly printed with the building's windows and details. That's pride showing!

As an alternative to having someone photograph a city or town, if they had a 'picture' department where citizens could donate pictures, current or from estates. It would certainly present our municipalities the way we use and see them.

Yeah, Doc MacGregor is exactly what I'm talking about.


Rephotographers may be interested in the technique described at http://chrisjones.id.au/doco/geomatrix.html to identify the location of old photographs. I'll try out my Vicinity app on some of Andrzej Maciejewski's images.

Because history is not important for a "city". Nor is architectural beauty, which can be destroyed to be replaced by ugly architectural chimeras like what you see in the Montréal photographs. "Cities" are managed, and history and beauty have no place in efficient management, unless it can bring money from the tourists.

Montréal was, once, a very pretty city.

"Some say that no one ever leaves Montreal, for that city, like Canada itself, is designed to preserve the past, a past that happened somewhere else." - Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game

I'm sure this only vaguely applies, but I can't miss the chance to quote one the city's most famous sons.

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