All you need to turn a mediocre street, park, market, downtown or city into a great place are a few simple things: enthusiasm, dedication, and willingness to truly listen to the people who live, work and visit there. Oh yes, and a camera.
In 30 years of work on the frontlines of communities around the world, PPS has depended on photographs as an essential tool for helping people think creatively about the possibilities of a particular place. We learned this tactic from PPS’s mentor, William H. Whyte, who spent years documenting New York life on film as part of his pioneering work on how people use public spaces. PPS staffers tote a camera almost everywhere they go–including vacations and lunchtime strolls to the deli–keeping an eye out for scenes that best illustrate what makes places succeed or fail. Drawing on our experiences, we offer you 10 tips on the art, science and etiquette of taking photos in public places.
The way a community thinks about itself can suddenly change when citizens encounter photographs of familiar places–the empty plazas or traffic-choked streets they manage to ignore most of the time. Or the marvelous corner of a park or interesting block of shops they have overlooked. Looking over images of some of the world’s great public spaces, from the left bank of Paris to a small town farmers market, can stimulate visionary thinking about what’s possible in your own town.
Project for Public Spaces has amassed more than a half-million photos from our explorations through back alleys, piazzas, Main Streets, souks, town squares, walled cities, foodhalls, train stations, strip malls and almost everywhere else. Fifteen to twenty thousand of the most striking are available for you to browse in our online Image Collection. And for a reasonable fee, you can use them for your own power point presentations, publications or galleries.
The way a community thinks about itself can suddenly change when citizens encounter photographs of familiar places.
With this special issue of Making Places we are pleased to offer some of the finest and most compelling images we found over the last year. They not only reveal important details about what makes good (or bad) public spaces, but capture the soul of lively places.
As Ethan Kent, manager of the PPS Image Collection, notes, “Photos of public places can be appreciated in the same way as pictures of nature. Some of the greatest examples of beauty and complexity on our planet come in public places. This is a record of human achievement.”
PPS’s unique brand of street photography will be featured in a show February 1 – March 31 at the Municipal Art Society In New York: Livable Streets: A New Vision for New York City.