The art of people watching

Yesterday, I was hard at work scouring the streets of Newcastle for stylish people to snap for The Crack Magazine’s Street Style. There are only a few things that I love more than people watching and I feel pretty lucky that I get to do it a few times a month as part of my freelance work! And Newcastle is a brilliant place for it.. except when it rains. Being just down from the Monument and on my way to Blakes, I didn’t want to turn back towards Eldon Square so I just made a dash for Central Arcade. Built in Edwardian times, it’s a very small, elegant arcade and one of my favourite places to wander. Despite there not being many shops housed inside, its beautiful facade makes you really appreciate window shopping.


Sometimes there’s nothing better than wandering aimlessly around the city and people watching. In literature there is a particular type of person like this, described by Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin respectively: the Flâneur. The name comes from the French verb, flâner, meaning to stroll. And the flâneur is an aimless stroller; essentially he is a people watcher, someone who moves through the crowd watching others without being noticed himself. For one of my final university essays I wrote about Benjamin’s Arcades Project in which he refers to the Flâneur as a window shopper in Paris, strolling aimlessly through the highly decorative, early 19th Century shopping arcades. So when I found myself hiding from the rain in Central Arcade, I couldn’t help but find myself drawn back to my old research and all the pieces I had read from Baudelaire and Benjamin.

‘The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world – impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.’

Baudelaire on the Flâneur

I think seeing all these Freshers in town is making me miss academia.

jumper: Noa Noa, skirt: Zara, embroidered scarf: from India, bag: Zara, shoes: Topshop


  1. September 19, 2012 / 3:00 pm

    I wrote my dissertation based on the flaneur or the debated female version: the flanuese, (Think I've spelt that wrong but n/m) and how fashion enabled women to construct identity in the post war years… sigh. I feel really old now.

    • September 19, 2012 / 9:38 pm

      Really? That sounds so interesting, I'd love to read it!

      I wrote about George Orwell as a flaneur figure observing the working classes in his sociopolitical texts Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and his diaries! Did you read the Arcades Project for your work or just look at the Baudelaire? I loved Benjamin, it's mind blowing to think what the text could have been though if he had finished.

      I do miss doing that kind of research sometimes, then I remember the hell of multiple deadlines and all-nighters in the library desperately trying to will myself to read quicker.. xx

    • September 24, 2012 / 8:35 am

      I based it more around film – there's a great silent movie called 'Berlin: Symphony of a great city' by Walter Ruttman, I think you'd enjoy it. There's a debate that prostitutes in that time period were the female version of the flaneur because they mixed with men from all classes and 'passed through' society as observers.
      Yeah same I think back to some of my library sessions and think how glad I am it's over!

    • September 19, 2012 / 10:18 pm

      This was a sale find from a couple months ago so I wouldn't know, lovely! xx

  2. September 19, 2012 / 11:15 pm

    Amazing pics, darling!
    Love that skirt!


  3. September 21, 2012 / 12:53 pm

    I love this place, although I hardly go there because of the lack of shops. Great photos xxx

  4. September 21, 2012 / 11:29 pm

    The Flaneur…oh my gosh, I love that term. I need to add it to my vocabulary now! I am sure I become one every now and then, though I'm not completely aimless when I do so. XD
    Also, your scarf and bag are adorable.

    ♥ Xixia |

  5. September 22, 2012 / 1:52 am

    What a gorgeous post and such a lovely term, I relate so well!
    You have such a lovely blog

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