Invisibilities: How to look at (for) something that is purported to be invisible


In the city, as in life, as we make our way around it we normally register only what we set out to look for. The anomalies, the absences, the troubling, somehow escape our attention. Consciously or not. But when it comes to matters of transport and public spaces, everywhere the eye might wander there are valuable clues, both visible and invisible, for planners, policy makers and the concerned citizen. However, if we fail to use our eyes we miss out on valuable information. And as a result our cities do just that much less well.

With this in mind we have made a selection of fifty wildly different photographs from the working archives of World Streets, which have been culled from more than three thousand  images and which one by one can help us to  better understand the almost infinitely variable challenges of sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.  I call these  “Invisibilities” reminding us to all of the many things that go on in our sector which we often fail to look at. This is a universal problem, and my hope here is to encourage us all, myself included, to be more fully attentive to the human side of transportation.

(We propose that you look at this with the full screen setting bottom right just above.)

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Editor Hint: How to look at (for)  something that is purported to be  invisible

Let’s assume that roughly half of the World Streets signed-in readers do not, for whatever reason, find time to open up this file.  While half of those that remain look in for a while, run through a certain number of images. and then move on to other things. But there are other ways to put this to work

One colleague who did open it up and spent some time with it, then wrote us this:

Looked again at your Invisibilities document in the light of day on a large screen – powerful and moving. What struck me was the paradox. In our need to move fast to mitigate the impacts of climate change and the exacerbation of inequities we actually need to slow down and just see, it’s all right in front of face and under our feet.

The image of the 3 pairs of feet on concrete then later the sleeping boy is incredibly powerful. I thank you again for prompting me to look more closely and think more deeply.

– Dr. Rebecca Patrick, Director of the Australian Society for Medical Research

“Look more closely and think more deeply”.  Sounds like a winning formula to me.

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About the images:

creative commons 15oct15The images that appear in this non-commercial work have been culled from past articles in the archives of World Streets, a non-profit NGO whose work is freely distributed worldwide as a public service under the terms of agreement of the Creative Common. We are grateful for the wonderful work of these keen-eyed photographers. World Streets does not hold the copyright for these works, most of which are in the common domain. For conditions of use and attribution, click the Commons link just to the left for details.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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