Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Web Wanderings: People Watching~*

I've always been a people watcher, as long as I can remember.  I'm rather introverted, but not shy-- I am the polar opposite of shy.  Introverted in that I am more internal than external.  I've never been one for big parties or big groups of friends-- I'm not a people person.  I don't know how else to explain it.  But I do love humanity as a whole-- history, societies, the way people respond in groups, psychology...that sort of thing.  I people watch on people of the past for a career, come to think of it.

Incidentally, genuine people watching isn't judgmental or cruel.  Its more a way of celebrating the diversity, personality & passions of people.  It is the acknowledgement that every one you see has a life, a story, a sense of self that is unique from your own.  People of Walmart, which I won't link to, isn't people watching, its mean-spirited snarking, enabling people who read it to feel superior to the people featured.  That site, and others like it, say far more about the people who view it than the people featured on it.

I have no problem with the taking of candid photographs of strangers in public spaces mind you- the expectation of privacy only extends to your personal domicile, and that is just reality.  We are all intelligent enough to know that people we don't know see us, observe us, judge us & may even photograph us.  We can debate it as an issue, but the fact remains, whether you support it or oppose it,  it is what it is & it can't be undone.

If you are unfamiliar with people-watching in person {as opposed to online}, no fear, there is a wikiHow on the topic.  I would have thought it fairly self explanatory i.e. go where there are people, grab a seat, start watching.  Coffee & awesome husband who also enjoys people-watching  are optional enhancements.  But apparently there is a whole series of steps that I missed...sigh.  Similarly, there is a list of the top ten places to people-watch-- another I-woulda-thought-it-obvious, but I suppose it you need a guide on how to watch people, you might need a guide on where to watch as well, & I do so like being thorough~*

photo from:
With access to the internet, it is now possible to people watch from the comfort of my arm chair, with a blazing fire & cup of coffee.  I've found a few amazing sites, some present, some past-- you gotta check them out.

Backyard Bill began photographing folks, well, in his own backyard.  He shortly discovered that photographing folks in their own yards, in their own clothes, in their own space, was the perfect way to combine his passion for image making with a celebration of individuality.  I'm glad he figured it out because the results are awesome:

People watching has been around forever, & photographed for as long as there has been photography.  There was a great interview on NPR with Jeff Rosenheim, curator at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art about Walker Evans, who made a career out of watching & photographing people in the depression-era.    Evans is the man behind most of the iconic images of migrant workers-- Oakies & Arkies as they were called-- that had fled the dustbowl.  But he also did amazing photos of people in the subways & streets of the cities. While you are listening to the interview,  cruise the Lee Gallery Evans exhibit..  So wonderful.

iPhones & cell phone photography is a great way to people watch & share.  Richard Gray runs a blog, iphoggy, where he shares his findings, offers advice & wittily discusses that art of iphoneography.  And I totally agree with him-- Matisse would have loved it.

For people watching, icon style, you can't beat Life.  A day in the life of Marilyn Monroe?  Check.  Following the Beatles?  Check.  And my personal fave-- Life with James Dean.

Finally, just in case you think that being on the receiving end of the people-watch dynamic {the watch-ee? the watched?}is intrusive or icky  -- nope, turns out it is good for you.  In fact, it might even make you a better person.


  1. We're BIG on people watching. In fact, Brian will point out to me when there is good people watching to be found. We love the airport for this event alone!

  2. I love people watching too, I even like looking at strangers photo albums and yearbooks- piecing together their lives, style, and personality from all the clues. I guess that is part of what I love about blogs too... and I refuse to think of it as nosy, it's just curiosity about people :)

  3. The airport is my favorite for people watching!

  4. I loved this post. I loved that you differentiated between people watching with "mean, snarky" motives, and people watching because you love people...anthropology. And all your links (!!!)...I hadn't given it much thought, but I'm with you...most of my internet browsing (wikipedia aside) anthropological investment. (= Sooooo fascinating. And what's really, really cool is when you happen to get a tidbit of story with the visual. Thank you for posting this. It is bookmarked, for future people watching reference. (= Lynaea @


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