Photographing American Urbanization, 1839–1939.
Text by Peter Bacon Hales.
University Of New Mexico Press,
440 pp., 243 halftone illustrations, 8x10".
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. c
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