Every city has photogenic sites and people, but some simply lend themselves to better photos. As a Colorado resident, I am partial to Denver, but it’s really the surrounding mountains that make Denver such a photogenic city. Likewise, New England cities attract many photographers every year, but more for the fall leaves than the city attractions. Here are five photogenic cities in the United States that can fill more than one memory card.
1. San Francisco
The city by the bay tops my list for photogenic U.S. cities. World-famous landmarks are matched by focal points for specific communities, and unusual streets and housing. Your camera will be naturally drawn to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the cable cars and curving Lombard Street, but dozens of other sites can’t be ignored.
Beat poets flock to City Lights Bookstore, rock fans make the pilgrimage to the Fillmore Auditorium, and artists, classical music fans and most architecture photographers can’t skip the Palace of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, the Castro draws the gay community, the Haight is still a hippie hangout and Chinatown is a hub for photographers looking for the Asian and the unusual.
Finally, the colorful row houses and classic Victorians turning abodes into art.
(Click on any image for a larger view)
2. New Orleans
The Crescent City is a photogenic city for its architecture and culture. However, photography can also be a social service. Compelling images from the city can upgrade a portfolio while also helping to expose the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the shocking economic disparities.
Warehouses of film are filled with images from the French Quarter and the Mardi Gras season. Preservation Hall, Jackson Square Park and the Old Absinthe House are among the attractions in the French Quarter. After dusk, the wildlife on Bourbon Street is a dream for photographers of parties, good times and debauchery. Even the food, from gumbo to crawfish boils, is worth a few photographs.
Outside the French Quarter, the Garden District and other uptown neighborhoods have beautifully preserved and highly priced homes. The other end of town shows the other end of the social scale. Housing projects run up against small, crumbling homes. Worse, some neighborhoods remain largely destroyed several years after the hurricane.
3. New York
I don’t really get the Big Apple nickname. New York seems more like the Capital of the World than a large fruit. Of course, there is the Empire State Building and Times Square, but it’s culture that makes New York such a photogenic city.
Comedian David Cross captured New York photography when he said "About every 20 minutes, you have to decide immediately … ‘Do I look at the most beautiful woman in the world or the craziest guy in the world?"
People from all cultures and nations converge on New York wearing everything from native garb to tinfoil hats. The city has a pulse, it beats fast and you have to be constantly behind the camera to even try and capture it all.
With a population of 130,000, Savannah is smaller and less prominent than the other American cities on this list, but it can’t be beat for histor
y and architecture. Nearly the entire city is part of one of the nation’s largest historic districts. Established in 1733, the city has history in every building and park.
Finally, keep heading south for a photogenic city with plenty of culture and architecture. The famous Miami and South Beach skylineshave been made famous on TV shows, but the colorful houses on the other end of town are also worth many a photograph. These obscure neighborhoods are also home to pockets of authentic Latin American culture with streets straight out of Havana or Panama.
Of course, South Beach is also more than a skyline. The playground of the rich and famous, it draws paparazzi and celebrity watchers alike. Most, if they aren’t movie stars, are there to see and be seen. They may feel like movie stars if you are there snapping their pictures.