Are Cityscapes Also Landscapes?

I happen to love landscape photography. Getting out into nature with my camera and tripod, breathing in some fresh air and just losing myself in natural surroundings is my idea of an ideal day.

Given that, you’d think it odd that I live in what is perhaps the most non-natural place in the country — New York City. Aside from a few selected acres of carefully preserved greenery, I live in an environment of glass, steel and concrete. But I have commitments and obligations here — both professional and familial, and so here I am and here I’ll likely stay.

That’s not to say that living in New York City has to be the bane of a photographer like myself. There is plenty to shoot here in New York — and even a concrete, steel and glass landscape can still provide enough to keep a photographer’s interest for years. And so, I spend a fair amount of time photographing the city. I visit it’s iconic landmarks. I frequent the green parks. I shoot the buildings, the water and the bridges.

I recently posted the following picture on Facebook.

I took this picture this past Sunday night at Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens. It’s a wonderful place to shoot. It affords a nice view of the eastern portion of the famous New York City skyline. Once I posted it, I shared it with several groups, including some groups devoted to landscape photography.

Shortly after I posted it, someone commented that the photo was “not a landscape.” I’m willing to concede that the above picture is not the first thing you think of when someone mentions “landscape.” You’re more likely to think of mountains, islands, the ocean, rolling fields and the like. Nonetheless, even though it’s not your first thought, I would argue that a cityscape is just as much a landscape photo as any of the other examples.

I don’t think that there is any formal rule that states that a landscape has to be all-natural. We all see shots that we would call landscapes that have man-made elements in the picture — piers, shacks, houses, benches and on and on and yet, no one disputes that these are landscapes.

So, what is it, exactly, that makes an image a landscape? To me, a landscape has a defining feature — it gives you a wide view of the environment. If, by looking at a picture, you can get a wide view of an expansive area, then that, to me, is a landscape. If it’s all natural — hey, all the better; but I don’t think that that has to be a limiting factor. If the landscape happens to show an ocean, is it not a landscape because there’s no land in the picture? It is a landscape, albeit a specialized type of landscape – a seascape. I don’t think a city should be any different. A shot, such as the one above, in my humble opinion, is a landscape — a specialized type called a “cityscape.”

What’s your opinion on the matter? I’d love to hear it.