The Urban Alphabet: A Photography Project

Last Updated on August 26, 2016 by Susheel Chandradhas

The challenge today is to find an ‘Urban Alphabet’: English Alphabets that are seen in everyday objects around you.

Cities provide us with a wonderful resource in juxtaposed objects. Magnificently textured drain covers from a different era sitting next to a modern paving and street markings, an ultra-modern skyscraper freshly sculpted out of the earth, yet forever posed against the immortal sky… they’re all there for the taking. Put one against the other, and see what alphabets you can make out of them.

The Urban Alphabet Challenge / Project

This project intends to test your skill at seeing juxtapositions of foreground & background, shapes & shadows, angles & straights, and much more. Keep looking around as you move through your city. This project challenges you to fashion shapes that have meaning to us in language, out of shapes (objects) that are intended for other purposes. This takes a little bit of vision, and a lot of curiosity & observation skills.

For this project, you will have to look at lines, outlines, textures, parts of objects, and techniques that you can use with your camera (such as using depth of field) to take shapes that are not quite what you want, and re-shape them into the English alphabet. This is a great time to hone your skills of observation, and awareness of your surroundings, to see what others are likely to miss.

Some Tips to Make the Project Easier

  • Try to find a diverse range of things to work with.
  • Try macro, landscape orientation, square crops, diagonal frames, whatever it takes…
  • Take multiple versions of alphabets when you see them. You won’t know which one works better till you compare them on the screen.
  • Set a defined start and end date to ensure that you progress consistently through the project and not keep putting it off for later.
  • Look for alphabets all the time, everywhere.
  • Don’t give up. Keep looking. Finish all the letters of the alphabet.
  • Try looking for simple words (super difficult, and may not be possible at all).
  • Share your project results with us on the Beyond Photo Tips Flickr Group or Facebook Page.

The idea is to see everyday objects in a new light.

Project Variants: Urban Numbers, Ransom Note Alphabet

You could also do variations of this photography project.

  • Create an urban alphabet out of interesting lettering (from different signs, etc.) that you see around you in the city. Imagine that you’re making a ransom note, except that instead of cutting out letters from different print sources, you’re taking photographs from sign boards all around your city. This is an easy project.
  • Create an Urban Number. Find shapes that look like numbers. See how many numbers you can get at the end of the project.

You can find more such projects at the Photo Project home page. If you have any suggestions for similar projects, or if you would like to share your work, do get in touch in the comments.

Pic: maloupictures

5 comments Add yours
  1. I do like the idea ! actually I love it but when does it start end etc… ?
    I would also ask you if you would be interested in joining us at PhotoProjectsWiki.com it would be cool to have your projects there with the rest !

  2. Hi ADIDAP Dreamer…

    I’ve been visiting your site now and then for a while now… Thanks for stopping by at Beyond Phototips.

    These projects are not really put up as an organised event. They’re more in the order of Do-It-Yourself home projects. I’d love to see things change, and for the projects to turn into something really participatory. That will be up to the readers though… I’m hoping to see some comments come in before taking things further.

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