About photobooks – old and new.
Title : End Commercial – Reading the City
Authors: Florian Bohm; Luca Pizzaroni; Wolfgang Scheppe
Published in 2002 by Hate Cantz Publishers (Germany), first edition.
4to, Hardcovers photographically illustrated, without dust jacket, 544 pp.
« Endcommercial » is a photographic inventory of urban daily practices occurring in New York. These urban practices are either related to the city’s functional organization [traffic control, maintenance, construction, signs, service screens, trash cans and bags on sidewalks, etc…] or to the city’s social appropriation of the space [neighborhoods’ social life, street vendors, markets, store windows decoration, private furniture on sidewalks, bikes attached to poles, etc…].
After amassing a substantial number of photo snapshots of these daily practices, Bohm, Pizzaroni, and Sheppe were able to elaborate a photographic taxonomy by discerning specific subjects: barriers ; street scripts ; materials; street vendors ; shop watchers ; « public chairs »…etc.
Most of these subjects seem trivial, but they reflect a wide variety of elements that are constantly present in the urban landscape and even define its esthetic, even though they are often disregarded.
As such, these pictures raise an interesting point, the tension between what can be perceived as transitory and temporary, but which in practice becomes more permanently part of the urban landscape. Scaffoldings, for instance, are temporary structures to renovate or build, but they never totally disappear from our sight. They move up or down the block and end up being part of any urban landscape. Especially in New York, City it is impossible to go for a walk without passing under scaffoldings.
In addition to organizing the photos by subjects/categories, the authors try to understand the inter-connectedness between them. They have designed a diagram at the beginning of the book, which illustrates the structural relationship between the different categories and how they all contribute to the urban fabric.
This structure and classification is arbitrary, unscientific, just a product of the authors imagination. It represents one possible combination of the different photographic subjects that emerged spontaneously from their research. But above all, the authors remind us that a city like NY should be conceptualized as a fragmented space, leaving open how one would connect the different parts or integrate the different layers that compose the urban landscape.
Finally, maybe one of the most interesting points in my perspective that emanate from this variety of « daily practices » is the different social appropriations of the urban space often not anticipated in the original plans. There is a potential friction between original architectural and urban plans, the conceptual perspective, and the social appropriation of the urban space, the real life.
This friction is unavoidable, but maybe desirable. An urban space has to be able to evolve and accommodate the locals’ initiatives, besides the experts’ perspectives. The urban space should not be rigid and immutable; it has to permeable to new and different appropriations, open to the residents’ own culture and expectations.