How do you explain a city?

By Chris McDowall 04/06/2011

"To tell you about Penthesilea I should begin by describing the entrance
to the city. You, no doubt, imagine seeing a girdle of walls rising from
the dusty plain as you slowly approach the gate, guarded by customs men
who are already casting oblique glances at your bundles. Until you have
reached it you are outside it; you pass beneath an archway and you find yourself
within the city; its compact thickness surrounds you; carved in its stone there is
a pattern that will be revealed to you if you follow its jagged outline."

"If this is what you believe, you are wrong: Penthesilea is different. You
advance for hours and it is not clear to you whether you are already in the city's
midst or still outside it. Like a lake with low shores lost in swamps, so
Penthesilea spreads for miles around, a soupy city diluted in the plain; pale
buildings back to back in mangy fields, among plank fences and corrugated-iron

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Urban Earth is based on a simple idea. Walk a transect across a major city and take a photograph every eight steps. The end result is a set of silent miniature video documentaries that provide impressions of everyday life in a broad range of urban environments. They also convey a sense of the scale and complexity of the cities and suburbs we have collectively constructed. I half-wish there were annotations, mini-maps and other snippets of information layered over the imagery, but I love it.


A photograph is taken every 8 steps (roughly) across each city and then edited together to make films which reveal an alternative way of experiencing cities. Each photo is always taken looking directly forward without bias, presenting an urban view which is emotionally challenging for the photographer whose gaze is drawn towards specific people, objects and places.Urban Earth


Geography is more important than many people think. A random route across a city may expose many things, but an URBAN EARTH walk is special because it attempts to reveal what a city is like for the people who live in it. URBAN EARTH is not about following the tourist trail or tracking down the most extreme places… it is about finding normality.Urban Earth

Thanks to Matt Ball for sharing.