|Grand Central Terminal |
New York City
One of the easiest and most lasting ways we remember cities is their iconic buildings, structures, artwork, topography, or natural features. Name a city and we instantly recall these images. When we talk about placemaking today, these images play a huge role in a city's identity. City's work hard to keep those images in your mind to get you to keep coming back, to locate a business, or to buy a home.
Featauared in Women's Health
In a recent issue of Women's Health (January/February 2012), the magazine featured an article "The Healthiest Cities for Women", highlighting the top ten as well as the bottom ten of their list of the 100 largest cities in America. The article also described just what makes them the healthiest.
|Women's Health Magazine|
January / February 2012
from my iPhone
However, as I glanced at the top photo, showing two young women taken at close range, I hesitated. This photo looked different. The visual of the two runners with big smiles on their faces almost seemed posed. The background was blurred and referenced no visual clues. It almost; shall I say look staged.
But then I got to thinking. What would the photo show anyway? Do we have a vista point in the city to show off a skyline. Do we have a trail system that rivals Austin's Lady Bird Lake Trail, or New York's High Line. Well we don't, and that's a sad thing.
When a national magazine can insert some generic photograph using staged models to represent your city, that's the collective collective American databank telling you that there may be nothing memorable about your city. That it falls into the many generic backdrops of similar post-World War Two "drive-bys" such as Phoenix, Dallas, Anaheim, and sadly in many cases San Jose.
Cities are defined by their ability to evoke a sense of place. No generic photo would ever take the place of a Manhattan skyline, a Diamond Head, or the US Capitol. The miles upon miles of beautiful orchards which used to evoke the phrase "The Valley of Hearts Delight" are gone. What image will now take their place.