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opportune place for the analysis of society, but also constituted the soil in which democracy, freedom and self-reflection were cultivated. Walking became a cathartic and edifying experience, producing poems such as Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman – paeans to liberty and mobility which influenced generations of writers and artists to come.4 Urban and extraurban roads therefore become symbols of first-hand experiences and, borrowing from Harold Aspiz on Whitman, “an opportunity for personal and spiritual renewal.”5 Since the nineteenth century, the city has thus emerged as a catalyst of vigorous experience; favouring real-world encounters and firmly opposing stasis and constraint with motion and authenticity. The possibilities offered by the urban environment have not only been internalised and endorsed by literary and poetic traditions but also been a great attraction to photographers. Since 1839 – the date of that first and famous daguerreotype, Boulevard du Temple, that Mary Warner Marien designates as the first street photograph6 – street scenes and urban scenarios have become sites for exploring both the world and the self, and street photography the most felicitous and serendipitous practice.

Although often described as a companion genre to documentary, but one whose social predicaments have a provisional rather than permanent relevance,7 street photography should instead be considered as the visual expression of the interaction between photographer and world in free-fall. To say it in photographic jargon: street photography is the authentic tracing of ephemeral encounters, passing reflections and sudden intuitions onto light sensitive paper. As Russell Ferguson has noted, for photographers the urban environment turns into


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