Some of the most powerful historical images of streets and the people traversing them have been served up by photographers. Public urban spaces are not merely subject matter for photography, however, since photographers themselves are actively engaged in navigating city streets fraught with politics and social meaning. This essay reflects on a few of these urban practices and spaces of photography and identifies some enduring themes through this history, from the technical challenges of depicting humans passing through static structures and built environments of the city to conflicts over access and surveillance. An exploration of the many different appropriations of public spaces for photography shows that walking in city streets has not only been a central subject for fine art photography; it also has been one of its primary historical conditions.

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