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The Urban Text

By Jon Setter
Publisher: Emblem Books
Publication date: 2020
Print length: 104 pages
Language: English
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Sydney-based Jon Setter (b. 1989, Detroit) makes photographs that attempt to reveal the unseen aspects of urban spaces and architecture. Often working with subjects discovered by chance on unprescribed walks, he documents cities from peculiar viewpoints. Colours, patterns, materials and textures of the urban vernacular are methodically developed into an abstracted expression of space to expand our reading of the cityscape.

Taking French sociologist Michel de Certeau’s notion of the urban text as a starting point, Jon Setter uses his photography to reveal the often overlooked aspects of urban spaces; ambiguous fragments hidden in plain sight among the dense narratives of the built environment. Acting as a modern day flâneur he seeks out what we take for granted, uncovering hidden truths and detailing the unexplored. Preferring formal concerns over identity politics, he examines a space’s essential grammar through its colours, patterns, textures and materials; elements which form the basis of any city’s character and speak to the uniqueness of its culture and history. Through precise and methodical composing, these aspects are reduced to almost unrecognisable detail. Thus, defamiliarising the everydayness of urban architecture and offering us a closer reading of the micro-level intimacy of the street beyond the artificial busyness of urban life.

By abstracting the urban text, Setter attempts to create a kind of universality of vision, a simplified network of ‘writings’ that encourage us to slow down and start observing the uniqueness of everything in the urban landscape. So, no matter where we are in the world, we can all begin to observe and experience the spaces in which we live more completely.
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