Are People Necessary For Good Urban Photography?

While I prefer to photograph people in urban environments, sometimes the emptiness of a scene is what makes the photograph.
While I prefer to photograph people in urban environments, sometimes the emptiness of a scene is what makes the photograph.
I often wonder whether we like seeing people in photographs because they enhance our ability to relate to the scene.
I often wonder whether we like seeing people in photographs because they enhance our ability to relate to the scene.

I have to admit that just about every time I go out with my cameras in any city, it is people scenes that I am after.  I think this is probably true of just about every street photographer out there, and even when I do not consider myself a street photographer in the strictest sense of the term, I can totally sympathize with the impact (or sense of wonderment) that people bring to a photograph.  What can I say?  It’s all pretty much a matter of personal preference, and personal means that everyone will have a slightly different opinion about this.

Having said that, I do think that people add an additional dimension to our interpretation of a photograph.  If anything, they make these photographs a bit less flat, less three-dimensional in our heads.  Human nature also makes us identify with people in photographs.  If they are looking in a particular direction, so do we.  We feel the weight of anything they carry, the sadness in their expressions, and the love in their eyes.  Their emotions, real or imagined, become our emotions.  We try to see through their eyes, to relive the scene as we imagine they lived it when the photograph was taken.  It becomes personal in a way that an empty scene will have a hard time emulating.  It is the magic of the still photograph and the reason why so many of us love this art form.