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NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.

Identifying the Location of a Cityscape

As with any photo-identification problem, you begin by looking closely at the image, and the mount it is on, checking both sides for imprinted, embossed or inscribed information. Look for information written on the negative that leaves a mark on the image. Use the other parts of our discussion to assign a date or date range to the image.

Having the name of the photographer makes identifying a city easy in most cases, as most worked in a few locations at most. Determine the date of the image, and correlate it with the biographical information about the photographer, and you will quickly identify the city. For those few photographers who traveled widely (such as many stereo photographers) or if the photographer is not known, then you will need to look at internal clues for the location.

First, what is the subject of the photograph? A park, a monument, street or building? Is there anything distinctive about that object? What else was caught by the lens that might not have been the photographers target, but may yield clues for your search? Are there signs in windows or on buildings that may be legible under magnification? Can you see any street names or building numbers?

Are there people in the image? What are they doing? How are they dressed? Most cities have at least a few distinctive buildings, are there any in your image? How about natural features - bays, rivers or hills? Can you see mountains in the background? Is it a northern city with deciduous trees, or are there palms? You can at least narrow the search with these clues.

Now use any clues you have observed to search for similar images online, using an image search engine. Try to put the distinctive features into words, and search them one by one, then in various combinations, and look at the images. Do any of the results look similar to yours? Note those that share some features, and consider what other locations would have similar characteristics.

Keep looking at photographs, look for books of photographs from various cities, look at museum displays of photographs, look at photographs online. If you are persistent and observant, eventually you will find an image that shares some part of the view you are searching -- a building facade, a street corner, the distinctive cornice on a building. Let's just hope that picture is properly captioned when you find it -- there is nothing more discouraging than find the exact same place in another unidentified image!

NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.





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