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First published in 1984, Silver Cities rapidly became a classic in the history of photography and in the then-nascent field of visual culture studies. Now this vastly expanded edition presents a lively interdisciplinary history of the first century of urban photography in America. Silver Cities envisions the transformation of American civilization via mass-produced and mass-disseminated photography of cities made between 1839 and the onset of World War II.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, urban photographers were visual explorers of the rapidly evolving urban sphere, but their understanding of that environment was defined by the prevailing cultural prejudices. To examine their visual products is to educate ourselves in the deepest concerns of American culture in the century of its transformation from agrarian youth to urbane maturity.
Readers new to the book will find a richly illustrated cultural history of American photography, with familiar names and newly discovered figures. Those familiar with the original will find the new edition fresh and surprising, exploring issues of race, gender, and ethnic identity and analyzing the ways media contribute to the power of the dominant culture. Longer and broader in its scope, with a vastly expanded collection of illustrations, the new edition surveys cities small and large, delves deeper into the twentieth century, and gives names to once-anonymous contributors and locations to once-mysterious places.
About the first edition:
"A fascinating overview of nineteenth-century urban photography."—Gunther Barth, American Historical Review
Posted January 22, 2009
'One may view this book as a study of American attitudes toward the city as revealed in one of its most important media or as an ongoing history of an urban art form,' writes Hale, a professor of art history and director of the American Studies Institute at the U. of Illinois - Chicago. The nearly 250 photographs relating to American cities from the pre-Civil War decades to the eve of WWII are roughly divided into the four stages development, maturity, transformation, and diffusion. Earliest photographs from the 1830s and '40s capture plainly the crude, clustered buildings sprouting up in open spaces, as in uncomprehending witness to what was unfolding. Photographs from the latter 1800s reach into the impoverished, fragile, hectic lives of immigrants flooding into the cities. Jacob Riis's photographs figure prominently in this period. Into the 20th century, the photographs again change in subjects and perspectives to go along with modernism's tenets of Promethean, prodigious, growth, large-scale enterprises, and celebration of technology and design. Springing from the 'discipline [of] American cultural history,' this revised and expanded edition of the 1884 publication not only contains additional photographs, but also related added text reflecting the growth of government sponsorship, mass-market reproduction, the place of women and African-Americans, and the diminished presence of 'individual studio practice.' Yet despite this last new topic, Hale also in one part brings out the 'photographic studio as itself [in italics in original] a part of the developing American urban fabric.' Like the earlier edition which has now become a collector's item, this revised edition is patently the leading study on photography as it took cities as subjects and reflected evolving attitudes toward them.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.