4 Reasons Why You Should Photograph Concrete


When people ask me if I have a favorite subject to photograph, they are often surprised by my response. See, I really enjoy photographing abstract urban environments, and most of all, I love photographing concrete. Yep, that’s right! Plain old concrete.

As the most common urban material, concrete shapes buildings, lines pathways, forms pipes, columns, bridges, and driveways. Anywhere you look you’ll see concrete, it’s as endless in variety as the reasons I love photographing it. You could say that car parks are a wonderland for me.


This slab of concrete takes on the appearance of a Rorschach test.

However, concrete is often overlooked for more obvious or eye-catching subjects. If you google “urban photography” there are thousands of beautiful photographs of skyscrapers and streets, urban patterns, and underground train lines. But rarely do you see photographs of just concrete itself.

And why would you bother? A photograph of a concrete bollard sounds pretty boring, right? Wrong! Here are a few reasons why concrete can be a photographic wonderland if you simply take the time to look.


The strikingly bold mark on this slab of concrete is the remnant of a red car that got a bit too close.


1 – Concrete is a time capsule

Concrete is popular in construction because it builds durable, long-lasting structures that will not rust, rot or burn. In short, it stands the test of time. This means that concrete construction will invariably wear the markings of the surrounding environment and the people who consciously or unconsciously interact with it.

It is a time capsule and photographing it means documenting the story of what makes up an urban environment. From the freshly laid feature wall, to the roughly poured foundations of an underground car park, or names etched into pathways and paint scratches from cars, it all tells a story.






2 – Abstract expressionism

If  photography is like painting with light, then concrete is a sturdy urban canvas. Another reason I enjoy photographing concrete so much is it has parallels to abstract expressionism. Abstract art, mostly characterized by painting, focuses on the process, the medium, the shape and the color within the frame of the canvas. Through their paintings, abstract expressionists create a visual arena documenting an artist’s movements, thinking and process without relying on the depiction of figurative imagery. Like abstract art, concrete lays bare the visual results of spontaneity, time and the limitations of physics. The lack of figurative references also allows the viewer to explore the image in greater depth, lending their own meaning to the work – which creates a deeper connection with the audience.

Like abstract art, concrete lays bare the visual results of spontaneity, time and the limitations of physics. The lack of figurative references also allows the viewer to explore the image in greater depth, lending their own meaning to the work – which creates a deeper connection with the audience.




The lack of figurative references creates the appearance of an almost alien landscape

3 – Minimalist beauty

Concrete itself is like an abstract expressionist’s canvas, but the act of photographing such a bold subject is actually very minimalist. Photography, when you drill down to the basics, is about light, shade, surface, tone and line. Photographing concrete surfaces doesn’t seek to depart from this, but rather, emphasize it.

Photographing a seemingly menial subject like concrete not only draws attention to its beauty but hearkens back to the simple elegance of photography by documenting the incidental and intentional brushstrokes of the urban environment.



4 – Variety!

No two panels of concrete are the same. Concrete acts as a canvas for a myriad of air bubbles, paint, scratches, graffiti, wear, watermarks, leftover adhesive, etc. Concrete itself forms waves and arches as it is poured. Finishing effects vary too, depending on the type of concrete and the pouring technique. Any portion of concrete maps out the history of that particular time and place with hypnotizing whorls and abrasive texture.

The familiarity of the subject is no deterrent either. Often, as I’m photographing a wall or pathway, passers-by do a double-take, trying to see what it is that I’m photographing. It’s something they may never have considered photograph-worthy before, and it interests them. The beauty is already there, waiting for someone to draw attention to it. Viewers often remark that they never knew concrete could be so beautiful until now!




Concrete is an incredibly variable and dynamic subject, and whats more, it keeps still! As an almost constant presence in history, the use of concrete has evolved with humans to shape our environment. Concrete is a time capsule of intricate details and hidden stories that illustrate the way we interact with the world.

It’s an often overlooked, but delightfully accessible subject, always ready for a photographer to take notice. Next time you are out and about with a camera, take time to look at what concrete has to offer. You may surprise yourself with how fascinating the canvas of the urban landscape can be!


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Megan Kennedy is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.

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  • Frans Blok

    One of my favorite concrete photographs is this one I made of the seawall on the promenade in Morecambe, England, because of the many colors and patterns on it.


  • Megan Kennedy

    That is beautiful! Thanks Frans

  • Ron Olivier

    Though some (like me) may not share your passion for concrete, I must admit that I really do like some of the pictures you included here. That challenges and inspires me to look back on some of the photos of the things that I’m passionate about and find newer, more interesting ways to see them through the lens. Thank you for this article.

  • Karen Filo

    Proof that beauty can be found in the mundane … if you choose to not only ‘look,’ but ‘see!’ Great article.

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Ron, happy shooting!

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  • Cathy de Seton

    not only concrete walls but footpaths that have somehow got beaten up after they have been laid, I remember on of my mentors suggesting I use “cracked concrete paths” as way to see objects…I’m just getting back into photography and will need something “concrete” as a series and this looks doable…

  • P James

    Thank you for having the vision to see the abstract and beauty within this common building material. You’ve provided an ah-ha moment!

  • Megan Kennedy

    My pleasure P James, I’m glad you found it useful!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Cathy, nothing like a ‘solid’ concept to build a photographic series on!

  • Lisa Moyer

    Your article and approach is so refreshing and has peeked my curiosity! I will have to try this! Thanks for a great way of looking at objects (and the world) differently!

  • This could apply to many things, wood paneling Tree bark, sky, carpet, what ever you can see is a good subject.

  • Megan Kennedy

    Absolutely! The possibilities are endless, once you start looking!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thank you Lisa, glad you like it!

  • George Citizen

    Finally, I’ve found someone who likes taking pictures of a…uhm…strange stuff. I’m always taking pictures of tree bark, rocks, worn pathways, etc. Most people don’t like this type of photography. I’ve used some of my pics as backgrounds for websites and power point presentations I give at work. (Photography is a hobby.)

  • Roberto Pompili
  • Megan Kennedy

    Great photo Roberto!

  • Megan Kennedy

    You aren’t alone George! Happy shooting!

  • Chris

    This would not be my first choice for photographs. I do like details but mainly in organic, natural things.

  • Very cool article! I make photomontages that sometimes call for starry skies. Concrete with the right levels adjusted for high contrast always does the trick. Not to mention the texture it adds to many images with the blending modes adjusted. I think there’s beauty and intrigue in our everyday surroundings, and your article further proves the point. Well done.

  • offtheback

    Megan-Thanks for pointing out an intriguing and easy to find subject!Always looking for photo ops.

  • Megan Kennedy

    Happy to help! Sometimes the hunt is half the fun!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks rsmithing! I like the starry sky idea very much!

  • Cathy de Seton

    Two days ago as I was negotiating my ratty driveway (on the hoof) I realised I had the perfect photographic concrete right on my door step. The driveway needs basically to be replaced as it is badly broken up – there has been subsidence, cracking, attempt to resuscitate etc (I’m in a rental, so probably not high on list$); now as summer gets underway many weeds popping up, more of the concrete bits breaking up (another tenant has 4-wheel drive, loves to roar up) and so on… I don’t have to worry about stranger driving down – a/ it looks dreadful at kerb b/ the broken concrete sounds like a xylophone/musical…

    but here is a photo of another concrete park kind of bench…which I saw on my travels the other day. (still no real camera/basic i-phone)

  • Megan Kennedy

    Hi Chris, that’s fair enough, concrete scouting isn’t for everyone! Sometimes you can find incidental leaf prints in cement paths which I find is quite a lovely contrast between organic and inorganic subject matter. Thanks for the comment!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Karen, well said!

  • Megan Kennedy

    Nice find indeed Cathy!

  • James

    I took this image of a brick wall in the Garrison District in Fredericton. Shooting street art is really unique and challenging and the results are quite rewarding.

  • Moira Lavigillante
  • Megan Kennedy

    Woah, nice catch!

  • billy

    If you shoot B&w film, what filters do you find are useful in accentuating patterns in non-color situations?

  • Everaldo Leocadio da Silva
  • Everaldo Leocadio da Silva

    Great pic

  • Jayanta Adhikari
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