Ubiquitously Urban

The photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, made famous the concept of the decisive moment, the moment when ‘a single image emerges where all the elements have fallen into place to symbolize a person, place or event.’ Cartier-Bresson treated his 35mm Leica like a mechanical sketchbook, and would shoot as many pictures as possible until he believed he captured ‘the moment.’ Applying his techniques—shooting with 35mm film, shooting the same subject for at least three frames, and printing in full-frame only—to the streets of New York and Boston I endeavored to capture each city’s character, and sought to determine whether urbanization is truly ubiquitous.

While photographing the two cities, I discovered that a city is curated by the interactions of its people. Though two urban environments may contain similarities, the qualities of the social interactions in its inhabitants are distinct. For example, in New York, individuals migrated with haste to get to their destination, and all other details were less important. Bostonians, however, approached all aspects of their daily activities with a unique awareness, and were always concerned with the actions of those around them. Therefore, Cartier-Bresson was right in that there is an interplay of elements in any moment, which makes it definitive. For while one can apply the term ‘urban’ to any city, it is the people who inhabit it that shape the city’s character.