Picturing urban resilience


My photographic work aims to show how photography can be used as a pedagogic tool to better inform non-expert citizens on the meaning of urban resilience. This work is based on a technique using the special properties of argentic photographic paper. Pictures visual appearance will be impacted over time according to their light exposure, as a visual metaphor of urban resilience’s cornerstone: adapting to a new state of balance when facing hazards. Each work prioritizes the sociological, environmental or urbanistic dimension of urban resilience. Reflecting the complexity of our urban lives, the three are intertwined and address the issues of vulnerability and related disasters.

There is a huge ambiguity on the meaning of urban resilience. Sara Meerow, University of Michigan, reviewed 25 different definitions (1) and none of them appeared satisfactory. Sara Meerow gave the 26th. Where is the ambiguity coming from? At the end, there is no definition needed if we do not agree on the prerequisites and on the ultimate objective backing the concept. The prerequisites have been recalled many times by different authors: we cannot separate people of their urban living places as both belong to the same process: the urban way of life. Understanding such prerequisites is key as it enables to conceive how our contemporary thinking articulates urban citizens’ relations with their environment, and this with a one and unique objective: the wellbeing and well-living of people together. (2)(3).

As important as the prerequisites and the objective, the philosophy framing the concept is crucial: the capability to “think resilient”. Unpredictability is the norm, referring to what C. Folke (4) wrote about “the likelihood of sustainability in a changing world where surprise is likely”.

All photographic works are arranged chronologically. From 2018 to 2021, “Urbanities” shows a series of diptychs illustrating different urban scenes with a narrative content related to the visual. Started in 2022, “Hanging by a thread” displays a series of triptychs chosen for their approach of social vulnerability and “Tipping points” explores our inability to consider major socio-ecological disruptions.

All works are inkjet printed on argentic paper grade Ilford MGRC Deluxe Pearl. The paper darkness development is technically complex as it depends on the brightness, the UV index, and the refraction angle of the light on the paper. Pictures will be fully or partly treated with fixing or developer agents at given dilution and time. Others will be left untreated. The way darkness develops in time should be seen as a visual metaphor questioning the issues related to the urban space resilience. This multi-parameter process recalls that hazards affecting an urban space are sometimes unpredictable. When the darkness level is appropriate, the daylight exposure is stopped, but the darkening process itself never terminates, recalling that the stability of an urban space, though said resilient, should never be taken for granted.


Print sizes: Urbanities: 21 x 30 cm / 8 × 12 in, Tipping points: 30 x 41 cm / 12 x 16 in,

Hanging by a thread: from 73 x 30 cm / 29 x 12 in to 73 x 110 cm / 29 x 43 in.


(1)  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.11.011

(2) Human and social properties make cities resilient over time / Chelleri-2012

(3) “Cities are not only the places in which we live and work and play, but also a demonstration of our ultimate faith in the human project, and in each other”, concluding and last sentence of The Resilient City, LJ Vale & TJ Campanella, 2005

(4) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-020-01487-6