Posted by: benj2919 | April 8, 2010

Close Looking -Interrogating Visual Material:

To me the adventure and excitement of traveling to a foreign city is exploring every facet of your new surroundings. Weaving your own path through the city from street to street, taking unconventional routes, and even getting lost can be great methods for learning about the environment, culture, and people’s way of life in that city.  Of course, exploring a new place requires some mode of transportation such as walking, biking, tram, bus, or train. These two photographs caught my attention because they depict a variety of different types of transportation.

This first picture is centered on a tram or streetcar next to a busy sidewalk. Even thought the street appears to be very narrow and crowded, we can see people traveling in three different ways: on foot, in the tram, and even on bicycle. The buildings lining the sidewalk look narrow but are several stories tall, using all the vertical space available. Perhaps the high density of this area has made walking and biking popular as space-saving and compact modes of transportation. Bulky, cumbersome cars and wide parking lots could not possibly fit in such a narrow street. If they must, it looks like people use the skinny street car for traveling longer distances. The stores and restaurants seem to take advantage of the many pedestrians and bicyclists going and coming. Pedestrians in the picture are often looking from storefront to storefront, some stopping to take a closer look through one of the windows. If walking or biking are major ways of traveling in Amsterdam, it would be interesting to know if people spend the majority of their time outside their home, using these shops and restaurants as living rooms and kitchens. If this were the case, their lifestyle would be very different from ours in the United States, where most of our time is spent in individual private homes, cars, offices etc.

While still including a streetcar, pedestrians, and a few bicycles, the most interesting aspect of this picture is that the street looks cut off from motor vehicle traffic, like an urban park or town square. Everything (the stores, streetcar) looks very accessible on foot or by bike. This area of the city also seems dense – tall, narrow buildings and crossing cables overhead are visible in the picture. 

 It will be interesting to explore if the popularity walking, biking, and using public transportation in Amsterdam has influenced the Dutch way of life. Rather than being segregated in cars and private homes, has traveling by foot, bike, or tram affected the way people in Amsterdam interact, communicate, and respond to one another?

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