GEOG205 Environment And Society : Essay Fountain


Photo Essay

Photography is an essential tool for geography students (Hall, 2009). It can provide evidence to support text, it can represent places, people and things, and it can be used in critical inquiry to expose and challenge meanings/interpretations of the world and the constructions of power they support (Sanders, 2007).

This assignment aims to connect your own experience of urban nature to concepts covered in class, to get you thinking critically about your day-to-day experiences of nature in the city. To achieve this you will use photography to document salient aspects of what you see. You will then incorporate your pictures into a photo essay, examining what they show about urban nature.


In Western thinking, urban and rural are frequently understood in opposition to each other. Open and green spaces are assumed to be confined to the countryside whereas city spaces are imagined as polluted, overcrowded concrete jungles; the opposite of nature. This perceived contrast between the two spaces influences people’s decisions about how and where they live (such as urban-rural migration and migration to the suburbs). While there is a great deal of focus on the way the city cuts into green spaces (through urban sprawl), there is limited consideration of the opposite: how nature permeates the city.

The urban-rural separation is an example of the limitations of binary thinking (such as culture/nature, black/white, man/woman). There is no clear divide between city and country: a variety of animals and plants are found throughout cities, and rural areas are deeply cultural spaces. Ecosystems do not stop at the city fringes and the impacts of human activities, such as water or air pollution, are not restricted to urban areas.

Cronon (1995) argues that focussing on preserving ‘untouched’ wilderness can prevent us from recognising the presence, and the value, of the wild things, processes and places which exist closer to where we live and work. Building on early geographical work pointing out the presence of nature in the city, attention has now turned towards the interactions, processes and metabolisms forming urban ‘social-natures’ (e.g. Braun, 2005; Swyngedouw, 1996; Wachsmuth, 2012). These ‘hybrid’ socio-natures challenge distinctions between natural and social, rural and urban.


Using photographs showing your experience of Auckland, critically explore the idea that cities are socio-natural spaces.

Approaching the question

Your own experience of Auckland should shape your approach to the question. Begin by reading around the topic, reflecting on how the concept of socio-nature fits with how you see the city.

How useful is ‘socio-nature’, and/or its related concepts, in describing and explaining your experience of Auckland?

Does a socio-natural ‘lens’ shed any light on what you see, or might your experiences/photographs be better explained as simply products of nature or society?




As Hall (2009), describes the importance of photographs in evaluating human geography by stating that it is a true record and is universally accepted and that a photographic survey is a means to represent information in the truest form. While interpreting elements of human geography Photographic evidence provides credible information that gives the researcher and the audience an insight into the description of facts. With the advent of urban planning, the necessities to have green spaces have been incorporated to provide aesthetic and environmental value to an urban settlement. The cities of the modern days are fairly balanced as contrasted to the older urban spheres. However with the recent rise of concerns regarding pollution and healthy living, these cities are planning their extension with adequate green spaces to facilitate the balance between urban and natural environments. It is no longer a rigid mandate that urban settlements and natural spaces are divided with rigid boundary lines. Modern cities are now developing their settlement pattern in a way that allows sustainable growth with adequate green spaces and parks and fields. This paper will try to evaluate the concept of socio-natural spaces with reference to Auckland, New Zealand with the help of photographic evidence.

Auckland Overview

Figure 1: Overview of Aerial view of Auckland (Source: Imagery ©2019 CNES / Airbus, Google, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, TerraMetrics, DigitalGlobe, Terralink International Ltd, Landsat / Copernicus, Map data ©2019 Google )

The Aerial photograph obtained from Google Maps of Auckland reveal that Auckland has a fair share of urban and natural spaces which enhance the living condition of the city. Apart from the Puketu and Waiheke Island and Rangitoto scenic Island reserve, the Auckland has several green spaces within the city. A closer look will allow us to identify the major green spaces within the city. The Cornwall Park, Mount Albert, the One Tree Hill, the Rocket Park, the Waikowhai Park, the Myers Park and the Craigavon Park are some of the few to be mentioned that adds to the green space of the city. From these images we can observe that Auckland has a fair balance of natural spaces with urban expansion. The city has adequate green spaces to provide for the habitants of Auckland.

Figure 1(a): Overview of Aerial view of Auckland (Source: Google Maps. (2019).

Streets and green spaces:

Figure 2 (Source: Driven, 2019), Picture credit: Greg Bowker

The plan to pedestrianise Queen Street is one of the many plans to increase green spaces within the city. This photograph gives a view of the queen street lined with trees that make the road visually relaxing and restricting cars in the street will allow less pollutions and sustainable growth of green sprawls within the city which is exceptionally necessary to preserve the existence of greener patches within the central city. A walk or bike ride would enhance the aesthetic as well as the healthy aspect of the town. Similar other approaches would allow the sustenance of the urban nature within the streets. The plan to pedestrianise the Queen was included in the city plan in 2012. This enhanced the nature urban interaction in Queen Street.

Quay Street

Figure 3: (Source:  Ourauckland, 2019).

The Quay Street Transformation plan undertaken by the City Center Master Plan by the Auckland City council allows for the up gradation of the status of the street and was included as an Initiative of Downtown frame work.  Being a harbor edge Street, this location is being renovated to increase the natural space along with transforming it into a pedestrian and meeting point, rather than being a busy street.  This Photo here gives an insight into urban nature interaction at Quay Street and reflects the way the street is being used as an escape from the urban busy streets by allowing pedestrians to take a detour through a relaxing walking experience.  This street is also one of the many instances of nature urban existence in Auckland.


Urban nature Walks

Albert Park

Albert Park is one of the nature walks situated within the city. This park allows for the natural walk trails and allows visitors to exercise and relax their fatigue amidst nature. This is one of the Public Parks and is bounded by the Wellesley Street, the Princes Street, Bowen Avenue and Kitchener Street. This park is a fine example of the socio-natural spaces present in the city. This Park also adds to the environmental asset of the city by curbing down pollution and enhancing the carrying capacity of Auckland.

Figure 4: (Source:

Cornwall Park

Figure 5:  Source (Cornwall, 2019)

The Cornwall Park is one of the most loved parks of the town. With a sprawling extension of 425 acres of vegetative cover, it gives a unique experience to the city dwellers. The Cornwall Park allows its citizens to enjoy outdoor activities and strolling all round the year and offers an exquisite example of urban nature amalgamation. The park offers walking trails and is a natural retreat within the heart of the city.


Thus from the above photographic evidences, it gives a clear picture about the urban nature expanses of the city of Auckland which offers great rehabilitation to the public and enhances the aesthetic value of the Auckland. Being located off the Bay, Auckland enjoys scenic beauty apart from these parks within the city. The extension of the city includes the islands of Puketutu, Rongitoto, Motutapu and Waiheke Islands, which add to the natural space of the city but in an extended form. However the parks of the city have been developed with time and have evolved with the growing city. The modifications of the park came with the urban growth and with the Auckland Downtown Framework by the city Council; more instances of simultaneous growth of nature and urban spaces have taken place. Thus we can conclude that cities are indeed socio natural spaces and the balance between the two spheres is essential for a sustainable growth of any urban settlement.



Bikeauckland. (2019). Retrieved from

Cornwall Park. (2019). Cornwall Park: Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from

Cornwall. (2019). Retrieved from

Driven. (2019). No cars on Queen St: the new plan for Auckland central city. Retrieved from

Google Maps. (2019). Google Maps. Retrieved from Imagery ©2019 CNES / Airbus, Google, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, TerraMetrics, DigitalGlobe, Terralink International Ltd, Landsat / Copernicus, Map data ©2019 Google

Hall, T. (2009). The camera never lies? Photographic research methods in human geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33(3), 453-462.

OurAuckland. (2019). Auckland News and Events. Retrieved from

Ourauckland. (2019). Retrieved from

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